1973 - 1984: Chemistry
Department, University of Victoria, Canada.
Postdoctoral Fellow, Sessional Assistant Professor, Senior
1984 - 2011: Chemistry Department, Oxford University, England.
Officer, Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory, Oxford
Tutor, and Lecturer in Physical Chemistry, St Anne's College,
Lecturer in Physical Chemistry, Oriel College, Oxford
Within the Oxford tutorial system, College tutors teach a wide
range of courses which, in the sciences, typically involve both
traditional lectures, and small-group sessions, often 1-to-1 or
2-1 with students. Courses taught covered the full range
of the physical and theoretical chemistry syllabus in the Oxford
MChem degree, including atomic and molecular structure,
kinetics, diatomic and polyatomic spectroscopy, magnetic
resonance, surfaces, thermodynamics, statistical mechanics,
reaction dynamics, quantum mechanics, and equilibrium &
2011 - present:
After retiring from Oxford in 2011 and moving back to Canada,
I've taught various courses at the University of Victoria
(UVic), including Chem 102 (Introductory Chemistry), Chem 222
(Inorganic Chemistry) and Chem 361 (Practical Analytical
Chemistry). At Camosun College, also located in Victoria, I've
taught Chem 121 for several years, and more recently have taught
both Chem 120 and Chem 150 (Engineering Chemistry).
The research of my group has concentrated on the use of
Artificial Intelligence to solve scientific problems. We have used
a broad range of tools, including:
(i) Artificial Neural Networks
: these are models
originally inspired by the way the brain is presumed to work; they
are value in a wide variety of fields that rely on "learning".
(ii) Genetic Algorithms
: these computational models are
loosely analogous to "survival of the fittest" models of the
natural world; GAs are commonly used to search large,
(iii) Support Vector Machines
: SVMs are a strongly
computational technique for data classification; the technique has
only recently started to gain a following in chemistry.
(iv) Self-organizing Maps
: these are able to learn about
large data sets merely by inspecting them; no training is
required, in contrast to Artificial Neural Networks, which require
access to a database of examples. They are, however, much less
powerful than ANNs for most types of problem, since the SOM is
essentially a just clustering algorithm.
(v) Particle Swarm Optimization
methods: these mimic the
behavior of animal groups, such as the flocking of starlings or
the co-operative behaviour of colonies of ants; rather
surprisingly, these can be used to solve
some types of scientific problems.
(vi) and other methods, including Agent-based Systems
We have used these algorithms to tackle problems from bacterial
remediation to cancer research, from scientific rule discovery to
proteomics, and from predicting the efficacy of TB drugs to
spectroscopic analysis. Several books in the area are available.
Work is currently underway on an environmental project in which
both Agent-based Modelling, a further Artificial Intelligence
technique, and Genetic Algorithms are being used to map the origin
of oil spills at sea.
Publications and books
Most research publications have been in the area of the use of
Artificial Intelligence in science and its application to
real-world problems, such as the assessment of drugs for the
treatment of tuberculosis or cancer, and studies of the use of
bacterial remediation to clean up chemically-polluted sites.
have been published, including volumes in both the Oxford
Chemistry Primer Series and the Oxford Masters series, published
by Oxford University Press and a text on the practical use of
Artificial Intelligence in science, published by Taylor &
A number of journal papers are accessible through this link.
In recent sessions, I've taught sections of Chem 150,
(Engineering Chemistry), at Camosun's Interurban Campus, as well
as Chem 120 and Chem 121 at the Lansdowne Campus.
is the oldest
University in the UK and the second oldest in Europe. One of its
most distinctive features is the tutorial system, which is used
throughout the University. As well as the normal selection
of lectures, seminars and laboratory work, all undergraduates are
taught by College Fellows (who are, in the main, University
Professors or their equivalent) on a 1-to-1 or 2-1 basis.
Oxford is a "Collegiate" University, and every student is a member
both of the University and - separately - a member of a College.
The Colleges are independent from each other and are not formally
a part of the University, but they are very closely linked to it;
in general, it's not possible to be a member of the University
without also being a member of a College. Colleges act as both an
academic environment and a social hub for students, and the broad
variety of students sharing life in a relatively small community
in each College is one of the key attractions of Oxford for many
The Chemistry Department at Oxford has a vigorous Outreach
Program, details of which are available here
There is plenty of information online about Oxford University, as
well as the Chemistry
, and Oriel
, the parts of the University with which I have been
University of Victoria
is a young, thriving and vigorous University
located in one of the most beautiful cities in Canada (and with
one of the most pleasant climates...).
for details of the Chemistry courses on offer at UVic.