UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy

Prof Michael Gillan

Prof Michael Gillan

Emeritus Professor of Physics

Dept of Physics & Astronomy

Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

Joined UCL
1st Jul 1998

Research summary

My research has all been concerned with the theory of condensed matter, with a strong emphasis on computer simulation. This really started at Harwell, where I learned how to do molecular dynamics simulation, and worked on fast ion conduction in uranium dioxide and other materials. In 1997, inspired by a now famous paper by Car and Parrinello, I started to put a major effort into computer modelling based on electronic structure techniques. My collaborators and students at UCL use a range of simulation techniques to tackle a number of scientific problems, including the properties of materials in the Earth's deep interior, semiconductor nanostructures, and the surface chemistry of oxide materials. Our group belongs to several UK consortia of national supercomputer users, including the UK Car-Parrinello consortium, the Materials Chemistry consortium, and the Minerals Physics consortium.


I always wanted to do physics, and was fortunate to be encouraged by outstanding teachers of maths and mechanics at school in London . I went on to study physics at Oxford University , and then did a D. Phil. there in the Department of Theoretical Physics, supervised by Dr. Bill Parry. Following the fashion at that time, I went to do a post-doc in the U.S. , working with Woods Halley at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis . I was enticed back to the U.K. by the offer of a permanent position at Harwell, where I spent a happy and productive 18 years, starting in 1970. Then, in 1988, I was offered and accepted a chair in theoretical physics at the University of Keele – they were taking a major risk, since I had virtually no teaching experience at that time! After 10 years there, I very much wanted to return to my London roots, and was extremely happy to have the chance of coming to the Physics and Astronomy Department at UCL.