Pete Licence inaugural lecture

February 22, 2019, by Rob Ounsworth

Chemistry… Suck it and See: Professor Pete Licence’s inaugural lecture   

Pete Licence’s inaugural lecture was a little delayed…but worth the wait. Appointed a Professor of Chemistry in 2013, his lecture was sidelined due to various commitments, not least his appointment that year as Director of the GlaxoSmithKline Carbon Neutral Laboratory. 

Chemistry… Suck it and See took a packed X1 Lecture Theatre in the School of Chemistry through an idiosyncratic, entertaining journey, that started somewhat shakily in Knighton, Mid-Wales, with a solitary A-level pass (Chemistry, of course), and led via the University of Wales in Bangor and a PhD in Synthetic Organic Chemistry, to Nottingham. 

Pete’s lecture was punctuated by a series of explosions, staged by the inscrutable “Chemical Stig”, AKA School of Chemistry research technician Neil Barnes, of Period Table of Videos fame. 

Pete Licence inaugural lecture

Professor Pete Licence: Science is more than just facts, sometimes a story, sometimes the hope to find beauty in the ruins of previous efforts

Pete Licence inaugural lecture

A number of other stars in the world of chemistry graced Suck it and See, not least Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff FRS, who brought Pete to the University of Nottingham in 1999, (asking during his interview “do you like spanners”) and thus embarking on a friendship and fruitful research partnership, with highlights including a 2002 Royal Society of Chemistry Innovation Team Award. 

Friendships, the support of fellow researchers and partnerships, from Moscow to Ethiopia, are a recurring theme in Pete’s career. Another is the buzz of discovery, and how asking questions lead to the new insights, such pondering what would happen if ionic liquids were put inside the vacuum of an X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) machine, which is normally reserved for analysis of solids. As Pete reflected on this breakthrough, “serendipity favours the prepared mind!” 

Even the calamitous fire in 2014 that delayed the opening of the Carbon Neutral Laboratories failed to dampen an irrepressible passion for his subject. With the help of Professor Andrei Khlobystov and the world-leading imaging facilities at the NanoScale and Microscale Research Centre, Pete found beauty in discovering patterns in the sustainable wooden structure’s charred ruins. 

Quoting an anonymous referee he ended the lecture, with a reminder: “… that science is more than just facts, sometimes a story, sometimes the hope to find beauty in the ruins of previous efforts.” 

Promoting your inaugural lecture 

Pete Licence’s inaugural lecture was promoted by the School of Chemistry and Faculty of Science. 

The University is keen to encourage and support new professors in arranging inaugural lectures. This is an opportunity for our academics to share their achievements in research, innovation, engagement and teaching with members of the University community and the wider public.  

 Inaugural lectures provide opportunities for: 

  • new professors to celebrate an important personal milestone with family, friends and colleagues, old and new  
  • the University to recognise and showcase the academic achievements of our staff  
  • colleagues from all faculties to hear about world-class research across the University  

 Inaugural lectures are also an essential component of the University’s public events programme, helping to create a wider awareness of the latest developments in science, engineering, arts and humanities, medicine, law and social sciences. 

 Promotion of inaugural lectures is supported by the respective faculty marketing teams,  which advise on planning and managing an inaugural lecture, including: 

  •  booking a venue 
  • creating an Eventbrite page 
  • photography 
  • parking and catering 
  • promotion (including posters, digital screens, online event listings and access to communications channels) 

 Faculty contacts 

Arts Helen Frost
Science Georgina Barclay
Medicine and Health Sciences Virinder Lail
Engineering Matt Colver
Social Sciences Erin Walmsley 


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