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Department of Chemistry

The Durham Lectures

The “Durham Lectures” are the Chemistry Department’s flagship lecture series.

Every year we invite an internationally leading chemist to give a series of lectures within the Department to highlight a topic area of modern chemistry research. The first lecture is usually targeted to a general audience, with follow up lectures building on that material to address the latest research challenges in the field.

The series was inaugurated in 2006 by the 2005 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Professor Bob Grubbs. Details of each of the subsequent Durham Lecturers is given in the box to the right.

Durham Lecture Series 2018

Presented by Professor Nicola Spaldin, ETH Zürich

The Durham Lecture Series 2018 will run from June 4th – 8th. Professor Spaldin will present 3 lectures. Dates, times and venues TBA.

Short biography

Nicola A. Spaldin is the Professor of Materials Theory in the Department of Materials at ETH Zürich.

A native of Sunderland in the North East of England, Nicola studied at Cambridge University, where she obtained a B.A. in Natural Sciences in 1991. She then moved to the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned her PhD in Chemistry in 1996. She next worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the Applied Physics Department at Yale University, before moving back to California, where she was Assistant Professor (1997-2002), Associate Professor (2002-2006) then Full Professor (2006 - 2010) in UC Santa Barbara’s Materials Department. She moved to ETH Zürich in 2011.

Nicola has received many honours and awards for her contributions to science, including the American Physical Society's James C. McGroddy Prize for New Materials (2010), the Fellowship of the American Physical Society (2008) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2013), the 2015 Körber European Science Prize for "laying the theoretical foundation for the new family of multiferroic materials”, the 2017 Lise Meitner Award of the German and Austrian Physical Societies, and the 2017 L'Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science.

She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2017.

Nicola is a passionate science educator, director of her department’s study program, and holder of the ETH Golden Owl Award for excellence in teaching. When not trying to make a room-temperature superconductor, she can be found playing her clarinet, or skiing or climbing in the Alps.

Research summary

Research in Nicola Spaldin’s Materials Theory group uses a combination of first-principles and phenomenological theoretical techniques to study the fundamental physics of novel materials that are of potential technological importance. Projects combine the development of new theoretical methods, application of the methods to existing materials, design of new materials with specific functionalities and subsequent synthesis of the "designer materials". Specific materials classes of interest are magnetoelectric multiferroics, which are materials that are simultaneously ferromagnetic and ferroelectric, and transition-metal oxides with "strong correlations", which often result in multiple coupled or competing instabilities, which in turn show strong tunable responses to electric or magnetic fields or strain.

Durham Lecturers

  • 2018 
    Prof. Nicola Spaldin
  • 2017 
    Prof. Marsha I. Lester
  • 2016
    Sir J. Fraser Stoddart
  • 2015
    Prof. James M. Tour
  • 2014
    Prof. David J. Nesbitt 
  • 2013
    Prof. Dr. Peter H. Seeberger
  • 2012
    Prof. John F. Hartwig
  • 2011
    Prof. Jacob Israelachvili
  • 2010
    Prof. Daniel G. Nocera
  • 2009
    Prof. Gerard Meijer
  • 2008
    Prof. Christian Amatore
  • 2007
    Prof. Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao
  • 2006
    Prof. Bob Grubbs