Anthony Cheetham, the founding director of UC Santa Barbara’s world-renowned Materials Research Laboratory (MRL), has joined the elite company of actors Anthony Hopkins and Patrick Stewart, a handful of Nobel Prize winners, and legendary musicians Mick Jagger, Elton John, and Paul McCartney. Cheetham has been conferred by Queen Elizabeth II as a Knights Bachelor, an honor that means he will be knighted and receive the title of “Sir”.
The Knights Bachelor honor is a component of the 2020 New Year Honours, an annual list celebrating the achievements and work of a wide range of people across the UK in recognition of their outstanding contributions to society. Cheetham was recognized “for services to Material Chemistry, UK Science and Global Outreach.”
“The knighthood is very special in a number of ways. First, it was awarded not only for my scientific achievements, but also in recognition of my international outreach efforts, especially to developing countries. The latter began when I was director of UCSB’s MRL and has been a passion of mine for more than 25 years,” said Cheetham, who is also an elected fellow of the Royal Society of London and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. “Second, and equally important, the award recognizes the outstanding support from my wife, Janet, who now bears the title Lady Janet Cheetham.”
After earning his PhD and accepting a faculty position at the University of Oxford, Cheetham joined UCSB’s Materials Department in 1991. The following year, he became the founding director of the MRL, which remains widely recognized as one of the top five materials research facilities in the world. Cheetham became director of UCSB’s International Center for Materials Research in 2004, before returning to the United Kingdom as Goldsmiths’ Professor of Materials Science at the University of Cambridge in 2007. He remains actively involved in research at UCSB, rejoining the MRL as a research professor in January 2018 after retiring from Cambridge.
“My sixteen years on the faculty at UCSB from 1991-2007 were pivotal in terms of my personal career development. Not only did they mark a step change in the quality of my own research, but being director of the MRL gave me the opportunity to help build one of the greatest materials science programs in the world,” said Cheetham, whose publications received nearly 22,000 citations during the period 2009-19, according to Web of Science. “It gives me great pleasure to know that the MRL continued to thrive, first under the excellent leadership of my successor, Craig Hawker, and currently under the outstanding guidance of Ram Seshadri.”
Cheetham’s research focuses on the synthesis and characterization of functional inorganic and hybrid materials. He has worked on the development of advanced methods for the chemical and structural characterization of polycrystalline materials. His current interests are in the field of functional metal-organic frameworks and hybrid perovskites. Colleagues at UCSB congratulated Cheetham on his later honor.
“It is particularly fitting to see the phrase ‘Global Outreach’ utilized in the recognition. As director of the Materials Research Laboratory and later of the International Center for Materials Research, Tony has had a long and successful history of linking materials research efforts across the developed and developing worlds,” said Seshadri, director of the MRL and professor of chemistry and materials science at UCSB.
“The Materials Department is exceptionally proud of this honor for Tony,” added Michael Chabinyc, professor and chair of UCSB’s Materials Department. “He has made a significant impact on the department and UCSB, particularly as the founding director of MRL.”
The Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor was officially founded in 1908, though the honor of knighthood dates back to medieval chivalry, as does the method used to confer the knighthood – the accolade, or the touch of a sword by the sovereign. Nominations, submitted either by government officials or the public, are assessed by a selection committee. The committee’s recommendations are submitted for approval to the Queen through the prime minister. Only British people can be made a Knight Bachelor, but foreigners can be given an honorary KBE.
Honorees will receive their medals from the Queen or other members of the Royal Family during investiture ceremonies at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle.