Aberystwyth University Honorary Fellowship

AO Research Institute Davos Director recognized for research achievements
Dr Emyr Roberts, Chair of Council, Aberystwyth University, with Professor R Geoff Richards, Honorary Fellow
Dr Emyr Roberts, Chair of Council, Aberystwyth University, with Professor R Geoff Richards, Honorary Fellow

When AO Research Institute Davos (ARI) Director Prof Geoff Richards accepted an honorary fellowship from his alma mater, Aberystwyth University in Wales, on July 17, 2019, he represented the AO's contribution to the university's selection of those best of the best. Those present were recognized for an impressive array of achievements, from a key figure in the global campaign to eradicate polio to a former first minister of Wales. Richards was among nine honorary fellowship recipients who were recognized for their connections to the university or Wales and for outstanding contributions to their chosen fields.

Richards, who earned a bachelor of science degree in cell and immunobiology from Aberystwyth University in 1990, followed by a master of science degree in electron microscopy in 1991 and a PhD in cell adhesion to implant surfaces 1997, was honored for his research on metal implant interfaces in orthopedic trauma. That research, carried out at AO Research Institute Davos, has led to major improvements in the design and manufacture of fracture fixation products and significant advancements in patient care worldwide. Richards holds professorships at respected international universities in Britain, Germany and China. He is president of the Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine International Society and until recently chair of the International College of Fellows for Orthopaedic Research, but will be active as past chair for the next three years in the executive committee of the International Combined Orthopaedic Research Societies (ICORS).

“His specialist degree and masters…set him onto a unique career path,” said Prof Christopher J Thomas, Aberystwyth University Pro Vice Chancellor for Research, Knowledge Exchange & Innovation. “From this west-Wales University, Geoff journeyed to Switzerland and joined the AO Research Institute in Davos in 1991.

One of the world's leading research Institutes in orthopedics, the AO Research Institute Davos houses 100 multidisciplinary scientists who undertake cutting-edge research in regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, biomaterials and implant science.”

(l-r) Professor Chris Thomas, Pro Vice-Chancellor – Research, Knowledge Exchange and Innovation; Professor R Geoff Richards; and Professor Elizabeth Treasure, Vice-Chancellor, Aberystwyth University

In 1999, Richards cofounded the eCM Journal, a pioneer in open access publishing and today one of the top-rated trauma research journals. In 2009, he was appointed as director of AO Research Institute Davos, an institute now with 90 highly interconnected projects underway. He has supervised nine PhDs, 15 master’s theses, four medical/veterinary theses and two diploma theses. Additionally, during Richards’ tenure as AO Research Institute Davos director, the institute has hosted 14 researchers from Aberystwyth University.

Richards said his own career demonstrates what passionate young researchers can accomplish in the right setting and with hard work. His advice to those considering a career in research at this time is simple:

“If you want to go into research, after your master’s or PhD, spend a year or two in industry to get industry’s perspective; and if you are going into orthopedics, try and get some time with a surgeon to watch their problems so that you’re not operating in a bubble,” he said. “Stay in touch with the real world. Be passionate and love what you’re doing.”

One requirement of Aberystwyth University Honorary Fellows—and one that Richards had fulfilled well before he was selected as an honorary fellow—is that they establish and maintain a connection to the university. He’s taking that commitment one step further: On the same day that he received the honor, AO Research Institute Davos and the university signed a memorandum of understanding providing for AO Research Institute Davos to host two Aberystwyth University veterinary medicine students for three-month internships each year. Aberystwyth University will pioneer the first veterinary medical school in Wales in 2021, working closely with the Royal Veterinary College, University of London, the oldest veterinary school in the English-speaking world.

Additionally, Richards has taken on the task of helping to organize Switzerland’s first official Aberystwyth University alumni meeting planned for the autumn. He has already been in contact with a fellow alumnus and previously the Director of Communication, Marketing and Public Affairs for the University, Alwena Hughes Moakes, who now lives in Switzerland and works for Syngenta in Basel.