Professor Roger Sheldon (Chemistry PhD, 1967)

Rodger Sheldon image

What have you gone on to do since graduating from the University of Leicester?

After leaving Leicester with a PhD I moved to the US to complete a post-doctorate with Prof. Jay Kochi (1967-69). From there, I joined Shell Research in Amsterdam, where I was concerned with developing new, more environmentally friendly processes for bulk and fine chemicals using clean, catalytic technologies. I met my wife in Amsterdam and have lived in the Netherlands ever since. In 1980 I moved to DSM-Andeno as Research and Development Director, where I became involved in developing cleaner catalytic processes for the manufacture of pharma intermediates. In this period, I invented the E factor (kg waste per kg product) for measuring the waste produced in chemical manufacturing processes. The E factor was adopted by both industry and academia and I became known worldwide as Mr E factor. I also became interested in biocatalysis during this period and my interest in both chemo and biocatalysis continued and intensified when I moved to the Delft University of Technology (TUD) as a Professor of (Bio)catalysis and Organic Chemistry in 1990. Following my retirement from the TUD in 2007, I continued as CEO of CLEA Technologies. I then became a distinguished Professor of Biocatalysis Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2015.

For more details of my career and honours and awards received, see

As a prominent Chemistry Alumnus, what are the biggest challenges for the profession in the modern day?

I currently consider a few challenges for the profession: facilitating the ongoing transition to a climate-neutral, low-carbon energy base and a circular, waste-free bio-economy. Also, research at the cross-roads of chemistry, biology and medicine, for example, in developing treatments for a variety of disabling and life-threatening metabolic disorder diseases.

Do you have a favourite memory of the chemistry department or your tutor from your time at The University of Leicester?

I enjoyed my time at Leicester. I made a lot of friends (some of which I am still in contact with) and I learnt a lot from my co-supervisors, Prof. Stuart Trippett and Prof. Stephen Davidson.

What advice and tips do you have for students and recent graduates who would like to enter a similar work role to you?

Pick a subject that is interesting and important from both a societal and scientific viewpoint and go for it.

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