24 October, 2019, 5:30 pm

‘Why grass is green and blood is red: what we, and the things around us, are made of’

Professor Simon Phillips

Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds

All Welcome

Simon Phillips was Professor of Molecular Biophysics at the University of Leeds from 1992
until 2008. He is currently Visiting Professor of Molecular Biophysics at Leeds and Visiting
Professor of Biophysics at the University of Oxford. As a chemistry undergraduate at
University College London in 1968-71 he was fascinated by the structure of molecules, and
how that could be determined by X-ray crystallography, a technique pioneered by William and
Lawrence Bragg over a hundred years ago in Leeds. His research career has focussed
particularly on how the structure of complex molecules in biological organisms governs how
they behave.

Everything we see around us, from inanimate objects such as mountain range or a turbine blade
in a jet engine, to living organisms like bacteria or humans, is made of atoms. There are various
kinds of atoms, or elements, but the key to how the objects around (and in) us behave lies in
how groups of atoms join up to form molecules. The arrangement of atoms in molecules
determines their properties, but this is invisible to the naked eye and required the Bragg’s
breakthrough to allow us to picture them. Professor Phillips will give a brief history of atoms
and molecules, and describe how the structure of molecules gives rise to the properties of
materials. In particular, the very complex molecules in living things that can carry out
remarkable tasks, and even make molecular machines that mirror human inventions such as
pumps and electric motors.