'I'm looking forward to making this a memorable year for physics'

Robert Kirby-Harris comes to the Institute of Physics from Kew, but his links to physics go back a long way

As physics is devastated by declining student popularity and an ongoing series of course closures, Robert Kirby-Harris seems an unlikely saviour of the much-maligned discipline.

Dr Kirby-Harris, who was this week confirmed as the new chief executive of the 37,000-member Institute of Physics, spent the past two years at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew - most recently managing its estates and catering.

His PhD is in higher education policy, rather than in physics, and his background has been dominated by spells as a university manager - at deputy level at both Middlesex University and at the University of Namibia in Africa.

But his relative lack of credentials in physics has not deterred his employers. Sir John Enderby, the institute's president, said: "Robert brings experience that will be vital in helping us ensure a flourishing future for physics in the UK."

Dr Kirby-Harris's first degree is in physics, and he has a postgraduate qualification in applied mathematics and theoretical physics. He has been a member of the institute since 1986. He has worked as a teacher and as a senior lecturer at the Royal Naval Engineering College in Plymouth.

He said in a statement: "It is vital that we enthuse young people about the excitement and impact of physics. I'm delighted to be joining the institute at the start of Einstein Year. As a physicist and educator, I'm looking forward to making this a really memorable year for physics."

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