20 June 2016
Sir Geoffrey Allen was SCI President 1989 - 1991. As a past president, he continued to work with SCI, sitting on the Membership Affairs Committee (MAC) as an elected member from 2009 - 2013 and co-opted 2013 - 2015. He was a member of the Council 2000 - 2002 and won the Leverhulme prize in 1990, for which he presented a lecture on ‘Our Chemical Industry 2001’.
Here, Sir Geoffrey talks about how he first became involved with SCI and the development opportunities he sees for the future.
What made you become a member of SCI?
Early in my career I worked as a university lecturer and part time for ICI. SCI was very helpful for the work I was doing, particularly with ICI.
Why did you decide to get involved in SCI activities?
Because of my interest in polymers, plastics, and rubbers. The chemical engineering aspects of SCI were very good, especially for networking, meeting new people in relevant fields of science, and helpful events for the work I was carrying out.
What has driven your long-term involvement with SCI?
Getting in involved with SCI activities, becoming president, and chairing the membership committee. I met so many people, I really enjoyed it, and I stayed on.
How has your involvement with the Society reflected (or combined with) your professional interests?
I have regularly attended SCI’s monthly lectures and, until recently, took part in their organisation. I found the lectures a great opportunity to meet people who were not formally members of SCI but whose work was relevant to the Society.
Has your professional career been shaped or influenced in any way by your involvement with SCI?
Difficult to say, as I had already shaped a career with Unilever and chaired the Science Research Council 1977-1981, which then became the Science and Engineering Research Council. SCI was influential in building the engineering division, with extensive networks that helped find members to contribute to the Engineering Board. I left this role in 1981 to become Director of Engineering at Unilever, where SCI again was very useful.
What makes you excited to continue to participate in SCI activities?
The regional lectures (London) and the monthly lectures at SCI Headquarters. Also, in my time on the Board of the Membership Affairs Committee, giving ideas and seeing ideas carried forward was very rewarding. I felt like I was making important contributions and seeing them develop, particularly my involvement with the Early Careers initiative.
How do you think your contribution has helped shape SCI?
Firstly, when I joined SCI it was strongly academic. It is now more relevant in industry, which encourages more people to join.
Secondly, I have been very involved with the monthly Public Evening Lectures, reaching out to different fields of science, especially growth in biological sciences, along with lots of chemistry and physics.
What would you like to see SCI become in the future? Where are our biggest opportunities?
A more active role with the Royal Society and the Royal Institution. I would also like to see more involvement with the Institute of Physics, the Royal Institute of Chemistry, and the Institute of Biology. These organisations working together would strengthen the applied science and engineering aspects of SCI.
How do you feel about being recognised as a Lampitt Medallist?
Overwhelmed. It never occurred to me that I would be considered a candidate and, having known so many others, I am thoroughly pleased.
What inspires and motivates you?
The importance of the applications of science and technology, especially those of chemistry and physics and in particular; rubbers, plastics, and polymers.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get more involved with SCI?
To join their local committee and take on an active role within the SCI community, connect with the committee and other members.