Tom McLeish, "Writing the World: The Entanglements of Literary and Scientific Creativity"

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Tom Mcleish

Tom McLeish, FRS, Professor of Natural Philosophy in the Department of Physics and also a member of both the Centre for Medieval Studies and the Humanities Research Centre at the University of York (UK), presents his research project, "Writing the World: The Entanglements of Literary and Scientific Creativity," to an interdisciplinary group of scholars, artists, and scientists comprised of fellows, guest faculty and students. He was here at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study in fall 2017 as a Director’s Fellow with his proposal, "The Poetry and Music of Science: A Comparison of Creativity in the Arts and Sciences," which is also the title of a book to be published in 2018 with Oxford University Press. His scientific research has contributed to the new field of "soft matter physics," in which he works with chemists, engineers, and biologists to study relationships between molecular structure and emergent material properties. This work has also included biologists, with whom Professor McLeish developed statistical mechanical theories for the self-assembly of biomolecular fibrils and thermal mechanisms for signaling in protein binding ("allosteric" signaling).

Professor McLeish’s recent research includes physics-inspired models of evolution, and he is currently the principal investigator of the United Kingdom "Physics of Life" network, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). He has also served as the leader for large academic-industrial collaborations, which Professor McLeish argues enrich fundamental science as well as generate commercial value. His other academic interests include the framing of science, society, and science policy, including his recent collaborative study of narratives about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). In the history of science, he has co-conceived and led over the last decade a large interdisciplinary project re-examining scientific treatises from the 13th century, focusing in particular on the works of the English polymath Robert Grosseteste.

Professor McLeish is the author of Faith and Wisdom in Science (2014) and Let There Be Science (with David Hutchings, 2017), works that articulate a theological narrative for the debates in science and theology inspired by his work in science policy and public science. From 2008 to 2014 he served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at Durham University and currently serves as Chair of the Royal Society’s Education Committee; the Society elected him a Fellow in 2011. He is currently a trustee of the John Templeton Foundation.