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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

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The Davidson Symposium being held here in the department on Friday 23 September 2022 will celebrate the legacy and vision of the late Professor Davidson in Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology and the modern face of the disciplines.


Professor John Davidson, referred to as a “founding father of fluidisation” in chemical engineering, was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK on 7 February 1926 and died in Cambridge on Christmas Day 2019. Prof Davidson FRS, FREng, was past Vice President of the Royal Society, President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, and Vice-Master of Trinity.  He joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cambridge in 1952 as a University Demonstrator. He became Professor of Chemical Engineering (Shell Professor from 1978) and Head of Department from 1975 through to his retirement in 1993.

Chemical engineering underpins most of the processes developed during the last century, responsible for our current quality of life and welfare. Over the last decades, new and even more complex problems have arisen as a result of human population growth and its interconnectedness. The World is currently facing major sustainability and healthcare challenges. Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at Cambridge is uniquely placed to contribute to these complex challenges building on its historic multidisciplinary approach, its holistic approach to challenges, and impressive track record in training of world-class students and researchers and links to industry and government. From this unique perspective, the department has a vision to reinvigorate and modernize the field through enabling a greener, more sustainable economy for a healthier society, achieved through our focus on energy and healthcare. These foci are underpinned by the department’s core competencies in Materials, Processes and Reactions, Sensors, Biology and Big Data.

Not surprisingly, this vision aligns with that of Professor Davidson over 50 years ago, recognised the potential that Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology had together, bringing both subjects to one Department at Cambridge, recruiting academics from both science and engineering and creating unique cultural links between both communities. He was renowned for his passion for addressing the fundamentals of problems, getting the best out of scientists and engineers, bridging the academic – industry divide, whilst also engaging with policy makers. He was also passionate about fostering cross-disciplinary collaboration. During his term as Head of Department, he contributed to these changes thanks to the gift provided by Shell in 1945 to start the Department.

The Symposium, 23 September 2022

This in-person Symposium is not only a tribute to John Davidson's work and lifetime achievements, but also a celebration of the modern face of chemical engineering and biotechnology. The disciplines have evolved tremendously and we would like to take this opportunity to share the important role they play in tackling the biggest global challenges in energy and environment, sustainability, and healthcare. During the Symposium, speakers will reflect on the abiding legacy of Professor Davidson as well as his vision for the future. 

We would like to take this opportunity to showcase the positive impact of our researchers' work and its benefit to society and share how chemical engineering and biotechnology is truly transforming our world.   

We welcome our members, graduates, and industry and academic partners old and new. Parking for the Symposium on the Friday will be available on the West Cambridge site. Arrangements will be communicated to those registered near the time. 

The Symposium programme and registration

Please note that the Symposium is an all-day event - and you can now download a copy of the programme. There will also be a Memorial Service for John Davidson on Saturday 24 September 2022 at 2.30pm in Trinity College Chapel for friends and colleagues. The service will be followed by a tea. Please note that the Department is not organising the Memorial on the Saturday and any queries about this other event need to be directed to Trinity College Chapel. 

Both the Symposium and the Memorial are free events but advanced booking is required - bookings for the Symposium in the Department will close on Friday 16 September. Further details and arrangements will then be communicated via email to those registered in early  August. 













Friday, 23 September, 2022 - 10:00 to 18:00
Contact name: 
Elena Gonzalez
Contact email: 
Event location: 
Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology West Cambridge Site Philippa Fawcett Drive Cambridge CB3 0AS