Christopher Maxwell Snowden

Presentation address by Professor Ian Hunter


Moving seamlessly between academia and business for forty years, Sir Christopher Snowden is an eminent engineer equally as comfortable in the boardroom as in the laboratory.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton and one of our most distinguished graduates, Sir Christopher’s pioneering research into computer modelling of microwave semiconductor devices has been applied worldwide to the design of mobile and satellite communications systems.

Christopher Snowden graduated from Leeds with a BSc in Electrical and Electronic Engineering in 1977, returning for his PhD in 1979 after working in industry. Upon completing his doctorate, he lectured in the School of Electronic and Electronic Engineering and was warden of Bodington Hall, supporting students and experimenting, unsuccessfully, with sleep deprivation as a method of improving research output.

Mobile telephony and microwave engineering were growth areas and Christopher embraced the opportunities, working in academia and business in the UK and US. After returning to Leeds as Professor of Microwave Engineering in 1992, he was appointed Head of School and a fruitful period followed. The Institute of Microwaves and Photonics was established, and he supervised 50 PhD students, published eight books and more than 300 technical papers.

A talent for applying cutting-edge science to commerce made Christopher the perfect candidate to join the publicly-listed technology group Filtronic in 1998, first as Director of Technology and later as Chief Executive Officer. Many of Sir Christopher’s former research students from Leeds were taken on as the company grew.

Christopher was tempted back to academia in 2005, when he was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Surrey. Under his watch, Surrey rose up the rankings to become a top ten institution. This did not go unnoticed, and he was knighted in 2012 for services to engineering and higher education.

Numerous public roles, awards and societies are included in Christopher’s lengthy curriculum vitae. He has been a member of the Prime Minister’s advisory Council for Science and Technology and chairs the Queen Elizabeth II Prize Committee – the ‘Nobel Prize’ of engineering. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, is a Fellow and former Vice-President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and , was appointed Vice-Chancellor of Southampton in 2015.

Sir Christopher and his wife Irena have two sons, James and Will, who are at university. Sir Christopher’s approach to life has always been ‘hands on', and the ever-patient Irena recently had to save his life after he fell off a ladder. On behalf both of academia and of business, I express our thanks to her.

Vice-Chancellor, it a great pleasure to present for the degree of Doctor of Science (Engineering), honoris causa, Christopher Maxwell Snowden.