David MacMillan, who is a former pupil of Bellshill Academy and James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry at Princeton University, was named Knight Bachelor for “an exceptional and sustained contribution to chemistry and science.”
He was co-recipient last October of the 2021 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work in a complex process known as asymmetric organocatalysis, which allows scientists to design and build small organic molecules that can drive chemical reactions.
David said: “It was difficult to keep it a secret when I found out in mid-May because I could only tell a very few people but it was tremendously emotional for me. I was able to tell my family and they were ecstatic and excited and taken aback. Everyone, especially my sister and brother, kept talking about what it would have meant for my mum and dad, who would have been so honoured and excited by the whole thing.”
“The response has been great on campus. I’ve had lots of emails already and of course people are calling me ‘Sir David’ in a joshing kind of way. But it’s been done really well on campus and people here are really enjoying this connection with the UK. One friend of mine, who is just the funniest guy you’ll ever meet, found out about this a few days ago. He had a suit of armour shipped from India to my home in Princeton. So, I now have a real suit of armour sitting in my garage waiting to be opened.”
The award has prompted David to contemplate his place in the world – and he has no doubt where that is. He added: “I feel so proud of being from New Stevenston and Bellshill. I’m incredibly touched at being able to receive this honour on behalf of those communities and I know it’s because of where I came from. That’s who I am. That makes it even more meaningful.”
David’s friend MSP Stephanie Callaghan MSP paid tribute saying: “Dave’s knighthood is so well deserved. His story is inspiring, a powerful illustration of how talent can be nurtured through a combination of loving family, public education, talented teachers and personal determination.”