Dr Stephen King

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​​​​​​Dr Stephen King, MSc PhD FRSC CChem

Steve King is a Principal Scientist at STFC with 30 years experience in the technique of small-angle neutron scattering (SANS), principally applied to the study of ‘soft matter’.

He gained his MSc and PhD from the world-famous ‘Colloid School’ at the University of Bristol (at a time when Profs Douglas Everett and Ronald Ottewill were also both still around) under the supervision of Profs Terry Cosgrove and Brian Vincent. His doctoral studies focused on the adsorption of polymers at interfaces, an area he maintains an interest in to the present day.

It was not long before Steve found himself conducting SANS experiments at the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) research reactor and, shortly thereafter, at the recently opened (UK) Spallation Neutron Source, better known now as the ISIS Pulsed Neutron & Muon Source. This led, in 1989, to Steve taking up a position as an Instrument Scientist at ISIS, working alongside Dr Richard Heenan on the LOQ SANS instrument. He has been at ISIS, working on LOQ, ever since!!! (Indeed, he is probably now the longest-serving scientist in the Facility that still regularly operates an instrument! Richard Heenan semi-retired in 2016.)

Over the years Steve’s research interests have broadened considerably to embrace areas such as polymer materials, self-assembled systems, environmental nanoscience, polymer photovoltaics and, more recently, metal alloys. He has also consulted for several companies in the pharmaceutical and petrochemical arenas.

Steve is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), a Member of the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI), a past Secretary of the SCI Colloid and Surface Science Technical Interest Group (now part of the Joint Colloids Group​), and was Co-Chair of the IUCr XIV International Conference on Small-Angle Scattering (SAS-2009)​. He has served on the Steering Committees for the Collaborative Computational Projects CCP-13 and CCP-SAS​, and the NERC Facility for Environmental Nanoparticle Analysis and Characterisation (FENAC), is a Volunteer Expert Panel Member for the United States Pharmacopeia, and has been a long-standing member of CanSAS, an international network promoting better standardization in small-angle neutron and X-ray scattering. He also helps to run the 'SAS Portal', a 'one-stop shop' for the SAS community, moderate the IUCr small-angle scattering discussion list, and develop the SasView software for the analysis of small-angle scattering data. Along with Dr Alex Hannon and former staff member Dr Steve Bennington he is also a founding architect of the long-running and highly-successful ISIS Neutron Training Course​.

He is an author or co-author of over 160 peer-reviewed publications, 4 book chapters, and several dozen other publications. Some of his work has featured in The Telegraph newspaper and on Swedish radio!

Steve's work uses SANS to study the complex and intricate structure of materials ranging from, for example, plastics to nanoparticles. What makes SANS so valuable is the wealth of detail it can obtain about the size, shape, and orientation of molecules and the interactions between them. This means probing structure on length scales more than 1000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair; ‘the nanoscale’​. This is actually a world far more prevalent than most people realise and which impacts modern society in many different areas. Steve's research has helped guide the design of new drug delivery systems, paint formulations and fuel additives (by providing physico-chemical explanations for clinical or in-service observations); improved the mechanical properties and processing of engineering plastics (leading to greater sustainability and energy efficiency during manufacture); shown how the resilience of modern synthetic fibre ropes is affected by detergents (which has important health and safety implications); provided new insights into how tiny particles of clay transport pollutants in rivers (and thus influence the ecology of the aquatic environment); and investigated the fate of man-made nanoparticles in wastewater treatment systems.​

More recently, and away from neutrons, Steve has been collaborating with water quaility scientists on the analysis of long-term / high-temporal resolution monitoring data (Project THINCARB)​.