Selby spent the majority of his working life at the University of Bristol, apart from a period at the University of California, Los Angeles. As an academic chemist he was awarded several prizes by the Royal Society of Chemistry for his research on the organometallic chemistry of transition metals. His career evolved towards management and in 1992 he was appointed Head of the School of Chemistry, holding the post for nine years, during which the School achieved the highest ratings for its research and teaching. He then joined the senior management team of the University as Pro Vice-Chancellor with responsibility for resources (Finance and Estates) from 2004-08. His final role as Senior Pro Vice-Chancellor would in North America be titled Provost. After retirement in 2008 he served as a Non-Executive Director on the board of the University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for four years. He has BSc, PhD and DSc degrees from the University of Bristol.