Prof Steven AbbottI have a PhD in Chemistry from my work in Oxford and Harvard. I did a post-doc with Nobel Prize winner J-M Lehn in Strasbourg then went to work in industry first with ICI (at the time UK's large chemical company) where I became a senior manager then as Research Director at a coatings company called Autotype. In both companies I travelled the world interacting with top companies and gaining experience in a wide range of industries and was a regular speaker at conferences. Because I loved combining academic science with industrial needs I was made Visiting Professor at the School of Mechanical Engineering at U. Leeds. Finally I went independent, which gave me the chance to learn lots of new science and to develop my ideas of bringing good science to life via software, apps and app-linked books. I have especially enjoyed being called in to corporations around the world as a troubleshooter using my own app-based approach to help solve problems

Check out my profile and publications via my official ORCID research ID: 0000-0002-7369-4408

Why I write programs and apps

Making something that others want to buy is very hard work. Doing it without good theory is even harder. So in my life in industry I've always tried to use whatever "good enough" theory could help me through the development and production processes. Usually this has meant writing a program or an Excel sheet. More recently it has meant writing apps. Being independent I have more time to explore useful science and bring it, via apps, teaching and consulting, to those (including myself) who need it.

Although I'd always said that the apps were Open Source, I had not made this explicit on the site. The Creative Commons BY logo on every page since October 2020 now makes that clear.

Steven Abbott TCNF Ltd

Setting up my own company it seemed sensible to capture my range of skills: Technical software, Coating/Printing, Nano-expertise and Formulation as Steven Abbott TCNF Ltd.

Although TCNF followed some predictable paths - solubility and HSP, coating and TopCoat - other things happened by accident.

  • One day I wanted to formulate a microemulsion, got frustrated by my lack of knowledge and the inadequacies of most surfactant theories. Now I teach surfactant science via my Practical Surfactants apps.
  • Another day I got frustrated with the over-use of dynes to understand adhesion and now I teach adhesion science around the world (and on-line) using the Practical Adhesion apps.
  • I certainly didn't expect to write any books, but Nanocoating: Principles and Practice (co-authored with Dr Nigel Holmes) has proven to be popular, then came my Adhesion Science book Adhesion Science: Principles and Practice then my various free eBooks on Surfactant Science, Solubility Science, Printing Science, IGC Science and Rheology. I'm delighted that the books have been downloaded more than 12000 times and I enjoy the feedback from readers. When the Royal Society of Chemistry asked me to write a "popular science" book on adhesion I took on the difficult challenge and the result was Sticking Together - which has been amazingly popular.
  • I gradually realised that books on their own are over-rated and that apps on their own don't give a chance to tell a coherent story: combining the two is a very powerful way to get ideas across, hence I had to learn how to create book/app combinations.
  • Linear books are fine, but aren't good for finding all the tools you need to solve complex problems. So the Formulation Scientist's Toolkit was a new type of book for a new way of working.
  • I became an expert in formulations for skin delivery in pharma and cosmetics through a chance encounter with, and complete disagreement with, a distinguished computational chemist.
  • I became passionate about using smart high-throughput techniques for formulation development after, by chance, being invited to speak at a conference in Stockholm and chatting to a stranger over a coffee.
  • At the same conference a question after my talk revealed my total ignorance about PSAs - and over coffee and lunch I got an instant tutorial by a world expert on the subject.

The take-home message is that scientists should be alert to the opportunities that open up via serendipity.

Reinventing my ways of working

Like many in my generation I'd assumed that YouTube and Twitter were fripperies I could do without. But the power of (short) videos is immense ("If it's not on YouTube it doesn't exist") so I've had to teach myself how to create videos and my YouTube channel is steadily growing. The network effects of LinkedIn and Twitter are awesome, so I kept using them till Twitter/X became unbearable.

As I want others to be able to write science apps I'm always trying to make app-writing easier. Hence the AppWriter.

The travel restrictions from March 2020 were another opportunity to reinvent methods for working with others. Of course I'd regularly used Zoom/Teams/WebEx/Google, but it had always been in the context of pure information exchange, and was seen as a poor alternative to a "real" meeting. As we've all learned to make better use of the power of the virtual meetings, I've decided that they are my "normal" and that travel will be an exception.

The current website was designed by coding genius Sean Cooper of Order and Chaos Creative and has proved remarkably effective and versatile. It gets well over 100,000 page requests a year which isn't bad for a pure-science site.

The "AbbottApps" name emerged over a few beers at a coating/webhandling conference in Prague and was a good idea at the time. The name tried to spread to my other apps, but was never convincing. So now AbbottApps remains with the webhandling elements, co-created with Dr David Roisum and others, and the Practical Science designation is used for my own creations.