Darrell Patterson awarded Bath’s first ever posthumous professorship

Article by Adam Duckett

University of Bath
Darrell Patterson established a research programme on membrane technologies for sustainable processes

DARRELL PATTERSON is the first person to be awarded a posthumous professorship by the UK’s University of Bath.

Patterson, who was a senior lecturer in chemical engineering and had established a research programme on membrane technologies for sustainable processes at Bath, had applied for promotion to professor before he died in 2017, aged 42. His application was halted until October last year when his family submitted information to the university in support of his promotion, including references and letters from chemical engineers in his field.

Teresa Patterson, his sister, said: “All throughout Darrell’s brilliant career he worked really hard. But especially during his time at the University of Bath, where he was at the forefront of ground-breaking and innovative work and research, all of which was well deserving of a professorship. As his family we all knew how important the professorship was to Darrell, and at the time of his death his professorship application was at the review stage and 90% complete. Darrell really deserved this professorship, and for his outstanding work and research to be formally recognised in honour of his memory.”

It took until February this year for Patterson to be made a professor of chemical engineering, marking the first posthumous professorship that Bath has awarded since it was founded in 1966. The university says the process was not straightforward as despite unanimous agreement from its academic staff committee that Patterson met the threshold for a professorship, the university ordinances did not allow for one to be awarded posthumously. The academic staff committee lobbied the university senate to change its rules. The senate readily agreed and recommended the university council make the necessary changes, which were approved on 23 February.

The university said it was pleased to have been able to make the changes and recognise Patterson’s significant achievements, which include establishing and directing the university’s Centre for Advanced Separations Engineering (CASE).

Phil Allmendinger, deputy vice-chancellor, said: “It is clear through Darrell’s research achievements, his research leadership, and his education of students, that he was dedicated to being the best academic he could be. This recognition from senior academic peers – both at the university and at other institutions – confirms the significance of Darrell's work and his positive contributions to the university and to engineering more broadly.”

Emma Patterson, Darrell's widow and senior lecturer in Bath's chemical engineering department, said: “The uniqueness of Darrell was his creativity, drive, curiosity and vivaciousness coupled with a relentless drive of making a difference to science and to people’s lives. He saw patterns and made connections resulting in novel research with a depth of understanding. He excelled at teaching and had a bigger vision that involved working with others across the global community to organise conferences and produce publications in a bid to establish Bath as a centre for membrane research. His ideas and drive in pushing membranes research at Bath is reflected in the department today. We are all really happy that the university has recognised Darrell’s contributions. And I’m pleased to note that our oldest daughter Matilda is now studying chemical engineering in Sweden.”

Davide Mattia, deputy dean of Bath’s engineering and design faculty, and one Patterson’s research collaborators, said: “Darrell was a leading figure in the membrane science and technology community worldwide. He produced important contributions in several key scientific areas and was awarded a highly prestigious European Research Council award as well as being a member of the EPSRC Programme Grant SynFabFun. His smile and warm personality touched many here in Bath, from students to colleagues. He put his energy and passion into developing membrane engineering at Bath, and his legacy continues through his colleagues and former PhD students and postdoctoral research associates, both in industry and academia.”

In a statement to The Chemical Engineer, Darrell Patterson’s parents Peter and Charlotte said: “We are so proud that our son’s hard work and outstanding achievements have finally been officially recognised, and that his legacy can live on for his family and his children.”

Updated on 17 April to include a quote from Emma Patterson.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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