New Chemistry Building Opens


A few weeks ago on Wednesday Week 1, the formal opening of the new Chemistry Building came to pass.

The opening was fronted by Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark E. Smith, Dr Robert Parker (CEO of the Royal Society of Chemistry), Professor Clare Grey (Fellow of the Royal Society) as well as Head of the Chemistry Department, Professor Peter Fielden.

The audience of the formal opening consisted of current and former staff of the university, alumni, senior management and LUSU representatives, Head teachers and Heads of Chemistry from schools in the region, donors as well as the contractors that worked on the building.

It was only 3 years ago this month that the Department saw its first intake of student for a pure single-honours chemistry programme. Only the month previously, development began on the new building where planning had only started the year before. At that point there was only 11 members of staff, which has now grown to 36 members which range from academic staff to tech support, admin support and marketing and outreach. As the first graduates from this degree graduated only this last July, the degree does not even appear on university league tables. Head of the Department, Peter Fielden, hopes that the new equipment can raise the reputation of the University’s Chemistry Department by saying,

“Our new building has been purpose designed for the delivery of both teaching and cutting edge research in chemistry that is relevant to addressing the current and emerging grand challenges in science and technology. We are very fortunate to have such an advanced facility at Lancaster, with access to top-of-the range equipment and instruments.”

Housed within the £26 million installation include equipment and rooms such as:

  • 2 computer labs focused on computational chemistry, which not all universities contain,
  • The Raman Microscope, which contains 3 lasers and is the most advanced type of its kind
  • Synthetic teaching labs which are the same as research quality
  • An NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) suite, containing two liquid NMR machines for proton and nuclei. Also within this suite is a solid-state NMR machine of the 700 series. The only university with this series of machine is Cambridge and which is only bettered by the 800 series within Warwick University.
  • A 3D printer that can print on a micrometre scale and smaller. There are only two other Nanoscribe Photonic Professional GT within the UK, of which we have one.
  • An X-ray facility containing diffractometers which can analyse thin-films, powders and crystals,
  • cTAP, which has been built in order to enable partnerships within industry in the North West through research and development,

Along with many other pieces of equipment which only serve the creation of a much stronger and well-purposed department for the students, staff and academia alike.

The formal opening of the building began with a buffet-style lunch and a tour of the new facilities. The audience were then welcomed by Vice-Chancellor Smith who gave a brief overview of the University and the chemistry department, followed by an Introduction to Chemistry by Professor Fielden regarding an overview of chemistry at Lancaster as well as the future aims of the department. Dr Parker then spoke on how impart chemistry is as a subject and the impact that chemistry and the chemical sciences have on the modern world which necessitates high quality teaching and research. The official opening speech was then delivered by Professor Grey who said,

“The design and construction of a new building, and the state of the art equipment and facilities it houses, and new laboratories and facilities for undergraduate education, sends a clear message to the UK community and beyond, that this is a place on a steep upwards trajectory.  And perhaps equally importantly, a new, well designed building is a much more fun and stimulating place to do science at all levels – encouraging and inspiring all.  I believe it is extremely important to connect science with real world problems, and fundamental science forms the basis of essentially all new discoveries.

He continued saying that these are the reasons that he thinks that “what the Chemistry Department is doing here to bring together cutting edge research with industry in the Northwest, and more globally, to attack relevant societal problems is extremely important.  Insight into industry challenges – particularly if coupled with the flexibility to think more broadly, about the questions and underlying fundamental phenomena – can lead to innovative and radically different science.   Chemistry is very much the central science – at the centre of many challenges that the world faces. And it is the undergraduates, and graduate students and post-docs who will use the new building who are poised to make the biggest impact. 

“I think that 2016 is an exciting time to be a chemist – many of the challenges that our society faces – from healthcare and aging populations, to the environment, climate change and ensuing problems such as water shortages and other consequences of increasing CO2 concentrations, provide a tremendous stimulus for both basic and applied science.“

For the finale of the formal opening, Professor Grey unveiled the plaque to be kept within the building before closing remarks by the Vice-Chancellor.

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