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Atkins left school (Dr. Chaloner Grammar School, Amersham) at the age of fifteen and worked at Monsanto as a lab assistant. He studied for A-levels himself and secured a place, after a last minute interview, at the University of Leicester. Atkins studied chemistry there, earning a bachelor's degree in chemistry and a doctorate in 1964 for research in electron spin resonance spectroscopy, and other aspects of theoretical chemistry. Atkins then took a post-doctoral position at UCLA as a Harknes Fellow at the Commonwealth Trust.  He returned to Britain in 1965 as Fellow and Instructor at Lincoln College, Oxford, and Lecturer in Physical Chemistry (later, Professor of Physical Chemistry). In 1969, he was awarded the Meldola Medal by the Royal Society of Chemistry. In 1996 he was awarded the honorary title of Professor of Chemistry. He retired in 2007, and has since become a full-time writer.  He received honorary doctorates from Utrecht University, University of Leicester (where he sits on the University Court), Mendeleev University in Moscow, and Kazan State Technological University. He was a member of the board of the Royal Institution and the Royal Society of Chemistry. He was the founding chair of the IUPAC Committee on Chemistry Education, and a trustee of a variety of charities. Atkins has taught courses in Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Chemistry and Thermodynamics (up to graduation level) at the University of Oxford. He is one of the sponsors of the Oxford University Scientific Society. In 2016, Atkins was awarded the James T.Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry to the Public from the American Chemical Society.