Richard is a chemist who spends most of his time understanding the behaviour of unwanted fires, particularly the effects of fire retardants and the toxicity of the smoke. He teaches physical chemistry and, until the COVID pandemic, was giving lectures on his work all over the world.
Richard currently teaches molecular spectroscopy (how molecules interact with electromagnetic radiation), reaction kinetics (what happens when two molecules react) and photochemistry (how electromagnetic radiation influences the rates of chemical reactions). He has over 100 published papers on the assessment of flammability, the influence of fire retardants on flammability, the toxicity of fire smoke and the effects of fire retardants on the smoke toxicity. He has published two major books Fire Toxicity (with UCLan’s Prof Anna Stec) and Fire Retardancy: New Strategies and Mechanisms.
Graduating in Chemistry with first class honours and course prize from the University of Salford, Richard went on to study for a PhD using a laser pyrolysis time-of-flight mass spectrometer to investigate fire retardant behaviour. He then made a sideways move to electrical engineering where he used “electron beam stitching” to attach thin gold films to silicon and quartz for the emerging microelectronics industry. Then he spent 10 years away from universities, teaching chemistry to hairdressing trainees, chemical plant operators, fire station officers as well as industry-based and full-time chemistry students. He ended up spending most of his time teaching industry-based chemistry laboratory technicians before being appointed to a University lectureship, where he returned to his fire retardancy research and started to work in fire toxicity. He also taught physical chemistry at every stage of the chemistry degree programmes. He wanted to focus full-time on research and was appointed to a Readership at the University of Bolton. In 2007, he was appointed to the first Chemistry Professorship at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). He has continued to pursue his interest in teaching physical chemistry and undertaking fire research. He has twice been co-chair of the world's leading Fire Retardant Polymers FRPM07 and FRPM17 conference. Following the tragic Grenfell tower fire, his expertise in material flammability and smoke toxicity have been much in demand. He has been interviewed on the BBC's Panorama, Newsnight, Breakfast (on the red couch) and World at One, Channel 4's Dispatches, as well as many major news programmes. He has been invited to speak on his work in both the UK and European parliaments.
- PhD Physical Chemistry, University of Salford 1987
- PGCE (Further and Technical Education), University of Manchester, 1987
- BSc (Hons) Chemistry, University of Salford, 1981
- Fire Retardants
- Fire Science
- Fire Toxicity
- Principal UK expert to the ISO technical committee on fire chemistry
- Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC CChem)
- Fellow of the Institution of Fire Engineers (FFireE)
- Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
- Chartered Scientist (CSci)