Personal profile


Wendy Flavell is Professor Emerita in the Photon Physics Group in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester, and specialises in surface physics.  She is a member of the Photon Science Institute, and was Vice Dean for Research in the Faculty of Science and Engineering between 2018 and 2021, and Deputy Head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy until her retirement in 2022.

When she was appointed to a Chair at UMIST (now the University of Manchester) in 1998, she was only the 6th woman in the UK to achieve a Chair in Physics. She undertook her first degree and DPhil in Oxford, and following a Royal Society University Research Fellowship at Imperial College, London, she took up a lecturing post in Chemistry at UMIST in 1990, moving discipline to Physics in 1996.  

Wendy was Deputy Chair of the Physics panel for the UK’s national  Research Excellence Framework exercise (REF) 2014, and also served as a panel member for the previous national exercise, RAE2008.  She was appointed as an Interdisciplinary Adviser to the Physics sub-panel for REF2021.  In 2017, she was elected to the Council of the UK Institute of Physics.  Wendy has served as a member of several UK research council committees, including  the UK EPSRC Physical Science Strategic Advisory Team, and chaired the Science Advisory Council of the UK Synchrotron Radiation Source between 2002 and 2004.  She acted as a reviewer of programmes for several international photon sources including SOLEIL and MAXlab.  She chairs the Steering Committee of the National Research Facility in XPS (HarwellXPS, 2024-).  Wendy won the Riviere prize of the UK Surface Analysis Forum in 2021 and was a Royal Society of Chemistry Spiers Memorial Lecturer in 2022. 

42 PhD students of 14 nationalities have graduated under Wendy's direction.  Her research group and their collaborators were selected to exhibit at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in 2011.  You can read more at

You can hear Wendy discussing the photon with Melvyn Bragg, Frank Close and Susan Cartwright (BBC R4, 'In our time' 2015) at: 

In 2024, Wendy discussed her career, and how the landscape has changed for women in surface science at:

More information at:


 BA Class I in Natural Sciences (Chemistry), Oxon, 1983

 MA (Oxon) granted 1986

 DPhil (Oxon) 1986

 FInstP, CPhys

 MRSC, CChem 

Research interests

Professor Flavell's research interests  are centred on the electronic structure of complex metal oxides and chalcogenides, including catalysts, photocatalysts and photovoltaics - particularly those of interest in the manufacture of 'next-generation' solar cells. Her research makes extensive use of world synchrotron sources for this work.  Much of this work is aimed at developing an understanding of the link between the electronic structure of a material and its end application.  it is aimed at answering questions such as 'how can we make solar cells cheaper and more efficient?', or 'can we use oxide nanoparticles to make better fuel cells?'

Techniques used include resonant photoemission, X-ray pnotoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) - including near-ambient pressure techniques, scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) and near-edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy (NEXAFS).  Resonant photoemission and adsorption studies have been used to explore the stabilisation of transition metal ions in unusual valence states at complex oxide surfaces.  This has been complemented by extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) studies of defect structure.  Prof Flavell's work has included studies aimed at understanding the electronic structure of the pn junction at the heart of TiO2-based dye-sensitised solar cells.  The energy level line-up in solar cells containing light-harvesting quantum dots has been established using SR at European sources including SOLEIL, MAXlab and ELETTRA.  Synchrotron-excited depth-profiling XPS has been used to study the core-shell structure of nanoparticles and to study their surface reactions. Prof Flavell established a programme of fs laser-SR ‘pump-probe’ studies of electron-hole pair dynamics in oxide nanoparticles and photovoltaics - this includes studies of fast charge transport in nanoparticles destined to be used in new solar cells for rooftop microgeneration.  Current interests include degradation, passivation and ion migration in inorganic perovskites, studied by techniques including hard X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (HAXPES) and near-ambient pressure XPS (NAP-XPS).

Collaborators in this work include the National Physical Laboratory, the University of Oxford, King's College London, SOLEIL (Paris), MAXlab (Lund), ELETTRA (Trieste) and RMIT (Melbourne). 

My group


I have successfully supervised 42 PhD students to date. I have 1 current PhD student. I  retired in 2022, so I will not now be taking on more PhD students as primary supervisor.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy

Education/Academic qualification

Master of Arts, BA Hons Natural Science (Chemistry), Oxford University

Oct 1979Jun 1983

Award Date: 14 Jul 1986

Doctor of Philosophy, DPhil, Electron Spectroscopy of Metal Oxides, Oxford University

Sept 1983Mar 1986

Award Date: 12 Jun 1986

External positions

Member of Council, Institute of Physics

Oct 2017Oct 2021

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Energy
  • Energy
  • Christabel Pankhurst Institute
  • Photon Science Institute
  • Manchester Environmental Research Institute


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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  • Communicating Physics through the Royal Society

    Shude Mao (Participant), Nicholas Rattenbury (Participant), Bruno Maffei (Participant), Clive Dickinson (Participant), Matthew Gleeson (Participant), Ingo Dierking (Participant), Mark Dickinson (Participant), Konstantin Novoselov (Participant), Andre Geim (Participant), Wendy Flavell (Participant), David Binks (Participant), Tom Spencer (Participant), Mathew Fuller (Participant), Adam Avison (Participant), Ian Duerdoth (Participant), Thorsten Wengler (Participant), Alexander Oh (Participant), Stefan Soldner-Rembold (Participant), Christian Schwanenberger (Participant) & Konstantinos Petridis (Participant)

    Impact: Economic, Technological, Attitudes and behaviours, Awareness and understanding