Ellen Williams

Chief Scientist

Seeing things differently

The role of science in discovering and recovering oil and gas

What is your role as Chief Scientist for BP?

I am responsible for supporting the basic science that underpins BP’s technology programmes, assessment and research in strategic technology issues, and engagement with BP’s core university research programmes around the world.

What are your areas of scientific expertise?

My research background is in the field of nanoscience, where I pioneered the use of a new experimental tool, scanned probe microscopy, to understand how technically useful properties of materials can be tuned based on the way individual atoms and molecules behave. One of the last materials I worked on was the ultimate thin film - graphene - which is only one atom thick and as a result has amazing properties with potential applications in chemistry, coatings and electronics.

In addition, I’ve been active in technical assessment of large programmes for the US Department of Defence and Department of Energy. At present I’m also engaging on advisory boards for the Electric Power Research Institute and the National Academy of Sciences Policy and Global Affairs and Sustainability programmes.

What are the major technology areas you are working on now?

I helped set up the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, and I’m looking forward to seeing the first research results coming from that programme. I am running a multi-university research programme on natural resource constraints and how they may influence future energy choices (the Energy Sustainability Challenge).

The Office of Chief Scientists is also responsible for establishing networks of technical excellence and innovation in key scientific areas that are essential to BP’s long term competitiveness.