Tom McLeish is an experienced and internationally-known academic leader in biophysics and the ‘Physics of Life’, soft matter physics and interdisciplinary research, including radically interdisciplinary engagement of sciences and humanities. He is currently professor of natural philosophy at the University of York and is a fellow of the Royal Society.
He has been instrumental in creating the current Physics of Life funding environment in the UK, a network that brings together physicists and biologists to tackle the challenge of integrating understanding from single molecules to systems in biology.
His research theme is biological physics, especially his contributions to the statistical mechanics of peptide aggregation and to the theory of protein allosteric signalling. These were recognised with honorary membership of the British Biophysical Society in 2015 and constituted a substantial part of his case for election to the Royal Society in 2011.
He is currently holder of an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) five-year research fellowship in the Physics of Life; principal investigator for the EPSRC/BBSRC NetworkPlus grant ‘Physics of Life’ on behalf of the UK community in biological physics.
The large academic-industrial interdisciplinary collaboration ‘Microscale Polymer Processing’ which he conceived and led from 2000–2010 radically transformed the landscape of fundamental research and open innovation in polymer processing.
His leadership over six years at Durham as pro-vice-chancellor for research created a culture change in the centrality of research there, its support, and in particular its interdisciplinary reach and reputation.