Professor Donal Bradley joined the University of Oxford in September 2015 as Head of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division and Professor of Physics and Engineering Science. He is also a Professorial Fellow at Jesus College.
Donal was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2004 and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to science in 2010. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Physics (FInstP), a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (FIET) and a Chartered Engineer (CEng).
He studied undergraduate Physics (BSc, ARCS) at Imperial College in London and received the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce Silver Medal (1983) as an outstanding graduate of the Royal College of Science.
Donal's postgraduate research was undertaken at Churchill College and the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, where he was a member of the Physics and Chemistry of Solids Group. He received his PhD in 1987 for his thesis, 'Spectroscopic studies of the solution processable conjugated polymers poly(p-phenylenevinylene) and poly(4,4'-diphenylenediphenylvinylene)' and was subsequently appointed Unilever Research Fellow in Chemical Physics at Corpus Christi College and, simultaneously, Toshiba Research Fellow at the Chemical Laboratory, Toshiba R&D Center, Kawasaki, Japan. He spent one year in Japan studying the nonlinear optical properties of precursor-route poly(p-phenylenevinylene), producing a patent on patterning methods for polymer optical waveguides in addition to several journal papers.
Returning to the UK in 1989, he was a co-inventor of conjugated polymer electroluminescence with Jeremy Burroughes and Richard Friend. He was subsequently appointed to a University Assistant Lectureship in Physics with a Fellowship at Churchill College, where he also then became Director of Studies and College Tutor. Donal worked extensively on the development of conjugated polymer LEDs and co-founded Cambridge Display Technology in 1992 (with Jeremy Burroughes, Richard Friend, Andrew Holmes, Paul Burn and Arno Kraft). He also contributed significantly to the then contentious debate on the nature of the excited states in conjugated polymers, strongly supporting the molecular exciton picture that is now widely accepted. In addition, Donal helped to develop the use of nonlinear spectroscopy to probe conjugated polymer excited states and device structures and investigated the role of molecular conformation and film microstructure in determining electronic (and optical) properties. Industrial research collaborators included Toshiba Corporation.
In 1993, Donal was appointed to a Readership in Physics at the University of Sheffield and founded the Molecular Electronic Materials and Devices Group which continues as the Electronic and Photonic Molecular Materials Group under the leadership of Professor David Lidzey. He was promoted Professor of Physics in 1995 and became Co-Director then Director of the Sheffield Centre for Molecular Materials; he also served as Warden of Tapton Hall. Donal's MEMD group was one of the first to study in detail the polyfluorene family of polymers for light emitting diode and laser applications, working closely with the Dow Chemical Company (Midland, Michigan, USA). They identified and named the β-phase of poly(9,9-dioctylfluorene (PFO), first showed the thermotropic liquid crystalline ordering of these materials and established their potential for highly linearly-polarised light emitting diodes. They also demonstrated strong coupling in organic semiconductor micro-cavities for the first time and showed giant Rabi splitting at room temperature. Studies were additionally undertaken on cavities containing thermotropically aligned PFO films whose birefringence enabled exceptional polarisation of light emission. More fundamental studies addressed the nature of charge carrier injection and transport in polymer films and diode structures. They further undertook early studies of optical gain and lasing and probed some of the limitations to electrical pumping. More general exciton physics, including resonant energy transfer, exciton dissociation and defect-related quenching was also studied. Additional industrial research collaborators included Sharp, Merck, Avecia and Zeneca.
In 2000, after seven years in Sheffield, he was asked to return to Imperial College to lead a strategic initiative in Solid State Physics to establish a programme on organic semiconductors. This culminated in the 2009 founding of the Centre for Plastic Electronics that within five years, involved some 25 academic research groups in the Departments of Physics, Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering, comprising in total some 100 PhD students and 50 PDRAs and visitors and a research portfolio in excess of £35M. It is also home to the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Plastic Electronic Materials and Devices (Directed by Dr Paul Stavrinou), an activity that is jointly run with the University of Oxford and Queen Mary, University of London. He was the Founding Director (2009-15) and supported the growth of a major programme across the breadth of materials design and synthesis, materials processing and characterisation, device fabrication and optimisation and theoretical modelling; five members of the CPE have become ISI Highly Cited Scientists. He also served as Head of the Experimental Solid State Physics Group (2003-05), as Head of the Department of Physics (2005-08), as Deputy Principal of the Faculty of Natural Sciences (2008-2011) and as Vice-Rector then Vice-Provost for Research (2011-2015).