Reading time ( words)
Teddington, UK — Colin Lea, a scientist at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) here, recently was honored with a celebration of his 60th birthday and 33 years with NPL.
Lea joined NPL in 1971 after two years at the University of Chicago, his first job after gaining a first in physics and obtaining a Ph.D. at Southampton University. The quality of Lea's work in Chicago, involving the atomic structure of materials at interfaces, had attracted the attention of NPL. His career there began in the pioneering years of atomic resolution electron microscopy. Lea led some major conferences, including the Quantitative Surface Analysis series, which continues after 25 years.
One particular application of these surface techniques involved understanding the soldering of electronic components. Lea realized the practical help NPL could give the electronics industry and became involved with it. A major part of this was the formation of the Soldering Science and Technology Club, the first NPL industrial partnership club. He also wrote what became an industry-standard text, A Scientific Guide to Surface Mount Technology.
Recognizing the significance of environmental issues, in the late 1980s Lea became involved in PCB cleaning and helping the industry adapt the ban on CFCs under the Montreal Protocol. He also authored his second bestseller, After CFCs? Options for Cleaning Electronic Assemblies.
In 1990 Lea moved into science management, becoming head of the NPL Materials Centre in 1997. He also is on the Steering Committee of the SMART Group, Europe's largest trade association for electronics manufacturing, and manages its long-running European biennial meeting. Lea makes many presentations himself, and in the 1990s heyday of the CFC issue, was giving 80 talks a year around the world.
As early as 1979 Lea was awarded The Metals Society Prize, and in 1995 was the first recipient of the ISHM UK Award for Professional Achievement. But the most important was the award of the OBE in the 1994 New Year Honors List for his work on CFC elimination. In the U.S. he received the prestigious 1991 EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award, and in 1997 the EPA Best of the Best Award on the 10th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol. More recently his work was recognized by the United Nations Environmental Program.