Neil Coville obtained his B.Sc. (Hons) and M.Sc. degrees at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, before proceeding to McGill University, Montreal in 1968 where he obtained his Ph.D degree (1973). After post-doctoral work at Harvard University he returned to Wits in 1976. He worked his way through the ranks in the School of Chemistry, from lecturer to Chair of Inorganic Chemistry before becoming an Emeritus Professor. He is still a member of two DST-NRF Centres of Excellence (Catalysis; Strong Materials) and maintains an active research group. His research work is focussed on carbon chemistry – synthesis and applications – and this has led to many studies on the shaping and doping of carbons. The applications include the use of the carbons as catalysts supports (e.g. in Fischer-Tropsch catalysis) and for use in sensors and solar cells.