Chemistry professor Martyn Poliakoff of the University of Nottingham, in England, has been knighted in the Queen’s New Year Honours 2015. The annual event recognizes several hundred selected U.K. citizens with a range of awards for their good works. Poliakoff received the knighthood, one of the highest honors, in recognition of his broad contributions to the chemical sciences.
As a researcher, Poliakoff is a global leader in green and sustainable chemistry. In particular, he’s contributed to the development of supercritical carbon dioxide and supercritical water as solvent systems for industrial processing to replace traditional organic solvents.
The honor also recognizes the scientist’s widely applauded service as a global science ambassador. Poliakoff serves as vice president and foreign secretary of the Royal Society, the U.K.’s national academy of science.
But Poliakoff might be best known for his frizzy mane of hair and the quixotic chemistry-themed neckties he sports as host of a series of YouTube videos about chemistry. The Periodic Table of Videos produced by Poliakoff and a daring band of his Nottingham chemistry colleagues has been inspiring would-be scientists and chemistry enthusiasts through a range of exciting experiments showing the properties of the chemical elements.
The project includes videos dedicated to each element and a host of additional topics ranging from molecules, aspects of physics, famous scientists, and holidays. The Periodic Table of Videos effort launched in 2008, and the clips have been viewed by more than 80 million people worldwide. The latest video is a special release to celebrate Poliakoff’s knighthood.
“I feel both honored and somewhat overwhelmed,” the ever modest Poliakoff says. “I see this award very much as recognition of all the work being done in green and sustainable chemistry in the School of Chemistry by my colleagues, by my research team, and by our technical staff whose efforts underpin so much of our research.” Poliakoff adds that his honor is also “a great tribute” to videographer Brady Haran, “whose vision and imagination has really enabled us to make chemistry more appealing for so many people across the world.”