2017 Sam Edwards Medal and Prize

Professor Tom McLeish of Durham University, for his sustained and outstanding contributions to the fields of molecular rheology, macromolecular biophysics and self-assembly.

Professor Tom McLeish is internationally renowned for his groundbreaking work on molecular rheology, extending the tube model of de Gennes and Edwards to entangled branched polymers and creating the theoretical tools which we use today to model the complex flow behaviour of entangled polymers under real-world processing conditions.

For more than 10 years (2000–10) he conceived and led the large academic–industrial collaboration Microscale Polymer Processing, which set the gold standard worldwide for soft matter research and transformed the landscape in the connection between fundamental research and open innovation in polymer materials science.

For these outstanding contributions, he was awarded both the Weissenberg Medal from the European Society of Rheology and the Bingham Medal from the Society of Rheology in the USA, one of a handful of scientists to have won both awards. He was also elected as a fellow of the Royal Society in 2011.

Since moving to Durham in 2008, McLeish has changed his research focus towards biological physics, applying the principles of statistical and stochastic physics to tackle biological problems such as allosteric signalling in proteins, amyloid fibril assembly and protein folding, almost always working closely with both experimentalists and biologists.

Despite having taken on demanding administrative roles at Durham (as pro-vice-chancellor for research over 2008–14, and currently as director of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter and Functional Interfaces at Durham, Edinburgh and Leeds), McLeish has maintained his international research reputation, successfully winning several research grants, including a prestigious five-year research fellowship by the EPSRC to study protein dynamics, self-assembly and evolution.

In his ability to do outstanding science, conduct fundamental research on industrially relevant problems and bring large teams of people to work together across disciplinary boundaries and the industrial/academic divide, McLeish is a truly unique and remarkable scientist.

McLeish is a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Institute of Physics, for which he also previously served as vice-president for science.