Starting 20 years ago with the democratisation of South Africa, Professor Paul O’Brien has worked with several African countries. His work has helped to change the lives of many of Africa’s young scientists with alumni from his group holding academic and other posts in South Africa., Tanzania, Ghana and the Cameroon. Paul has worked collaboratively with historically black universities in South Africa in order to build excellence in both teaching and research. He has also raised well over £2 million in support of his work to change the lives of many people and last year he received a CBE for his services to science and engineering.
In 1996 Paul was invited to lead a Royal Society/NRF programme for Historically Black Universities which had started to support the dawn of democracy in South Africa. The project ran for nearly twelve years and brought funding over £700,000 to South Africa, which led to over 12 alumni holding substantive posts in academia or research. Paul has continued to work in South Africa and was a founding member and advisor to the South African Nanotechnology Initiative SANI. Instrumental in bringing the International Conference on Coordination Chemistry to the country in 2006, he also helped to organise the first international workshop at The University of Zululand in 2008, bringing Harry Kroto to the country. Amongst his many successes, Paul has supported the Chemical Society in South Africa and the RSC SA section lecturing extensively; he has worked with SCI-Bono in Johannesburg, lectured at SciFest and toured the country lecturing supporting the SANI initiative. Most recently Paul obtained a new £1.15 million grant from the Royal Society and DFID for capacity building in South Africa, Ghana and the Cameroon.