Dr. David McPhail

Professor of Chemistry

Edith O’Donnell Distinguished Chair of Conservation Science

Dr. David McPhail is an expert in the field of ion beam mass spectrometry — an analytical technique that can typify the composition of a material's surface and tell you how that composition is changing over time as the surface interacts with the immediate atmosphere around it.

"The ultimate aim of my work is to provide conservators and curators with practical steps that they can take to arrest completely, or failing that slow down, the degradation so that the useful life of the museum objects can be extended for the many future generations of museum visitors," McPhail said.

McPhail is working closely with the Edith O'Donnell Institute of Art History and with the Dallas-Fort Worth area's major art museums, including the Dallas Museum of Art and the Amon Carter Museum, in collaborative research projects.

Before arriving to UT Dallas in 2016, McPhail lectured and conducted research at Imperial College London, where he developed research collaborations with London's major museums. He was deputy director of the graduate school at the university from 2011 to 2015 and acted as the academic lead on a joint doctorate program with the National University of Singapore from 2010 to 2015.

He has won the Imperial College Rector's Award — one of the university's highest faculty accolades — twice.

McPhail has a PhD in mass spectrometry from Imperial College London, a postgraduate teaching certificate from the University of London and a B.Sc. in physics from Bristol University. He is a Fellow of the UK Institute of Physics and sat on its council from 2010 to 2014.

Dr. David McPhail

School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

School of Arts and Humanities


The endowed chair was established by a gift from Edith O'Donnell in 2014 for the research and scholarly activities of the faculty member appointed, with a focus on art conservation at UT Dallas. McPhail was appointed Jan. 1, 2016.


With over 180 publications in print, McPhail is a leading researcher in the field of conservation science.


“I am delighted to have this amazing opportunity at UTD to carry out research and teaching at the interface between the arts and the sciences.”