Martyn Poliakoff, a student once told him, has two great assets as a scientist: a funny name and funny hair.

Both should prove useful to the research professor of chemistry at the University of Nottingham, who is soon to take on a new role as foreign secretary of the Royal Society – effectively an amb

assador for British science.

His hair, Professor Poliakoff admits, has undoubtedly caused a lot of interest on the internet, where he has become something of a sensation thanks to the science-related videos he regularly posts on YouTube.

“I get quite irritated when people accuse me of dressing up as a mad scientist for the videos and I sometimes post comments saying: ‘No, it’s me’,” he said.

He has always been a keen teacher, making use of unusual props such as a toy for dogs called a Wiggly Giggly, which he “bought at a pet shop and is the same shape as the methane molecule but squeaks when you rotate it”. He also uses a furry bone that has the same shape and symmetry as ethylene.

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