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August 12, 2002
Volume 80, Number 32
CENEAR 80 32 pp. 39-43
ISSN 0009-2347

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THE DEPARTMENT achieved a top rating in the 2001 research assessment exercise operated by the higher education funding councils in Britain.

The Lensfield Road laboratory where Sanders, Ley, and their colleagues in the chemistry department carry out their research is currently being renovated. “Since the late 1950s, when the laboratory opened, the total number of academic staff, senior research fellows, support staff, postdoctoral researchers, and Ph.D. students has increased from about 250 to almost 600,” Sanders says. “So in the mid-1990s, we drew up a strategic plan for refurbishing and expanding the building. The current phase of the project will be finished by December. By then, two-thirds of the building will be transformed into modern laboratories.”

The cost of the project is well over $100 million, of which around $42 million was provided from the British government’s Joint Infrastructure Fund. Unilever, BP, and Glaxo Wellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline) have also contributed funding to the project.

In March 2001, the university opened its $20 million Unilever Centre for Molecular Informatics as part of the chemistry department.

“The center develops information technology tools, such as intelligent browsers and robotic intelligence, to combine data from many different sources and unite the world of molecular sciences,” notes Robert Glen, who heads the center. “The aim of the research is to accelerate innovation and discovery across chemistry, physics, biology, genetics, and other scientific disciplines by providing tools for the mining and analysis of data across disciplines.

“At present, more than 90% of scientific findings remain unknown to the majority of scientists,” he continues. “In the future, major advances in science will depend on our ability to handle masses of information, particularly across scientific disciplines such as chemistry and biology. Informatics will enable us to access and work with much more information of far greater complexity than was imaginable even five years ago.”

As part of its endeavors to create an exciting and stimulating chemistry environment at the Lensfield Road laboratory, the department formed a museum group last year. “The objectives of the museum project are to catalog and collect information, photographs, old models, apparatuses, and other historical material for the department, and find places in the public areas of the laboratory where these can be exhibited,” archivist Haley notes.

The university is also taking stock of its 300-year history of chemistry and marking the tercentenary with a two-day celebration in December titled “Transformation and Change.” The event will include a symposium that examines the past, present, and future of chemistry at the university.

Ley, the current holder of the BP 1702 chair, will present a lecture on chemistry in a changing world at the symposium.

“I am proud and honored to be the 1702 professor at Cambridge with its rich history,” he tells C&EN. “It is remarkable to reflect upon the advances in the chemical sciences that have been made over the last 300 years and the benefits that have arisen to mankind. In the rapidly changing world of today, I wonder just what exciting advances will be made over the next 300 years. This is a great time to be a chemist.”

REGAL Princess Margaret and Todd examine a model of vitamin B-12 during the opening of new laboratory on Lensfield Road in 1958.

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HIERARCHY
College System Began In 13th Century

Although exact details are not known, according to historical records the University of Cambridge, in England, was founded at the beginning of the 13th century. Early documentary evidence of its founding was probably destroyed in riots in the town during the 1380s.

Scholars at the university were originally assigned to masters, who not only taught them but also arranged their accommodation in lodging-houses. These houses eventually became established as residential colleges.

There are now 31 colleges at the university, three of which are solely for women. Two admit only graduate students. The colleges are autonomous institutions with their own property and income. They control the selection of students and are responsible for their general welfare.

Students live, eat, and socialize in the colleges. There they are advised by “tutors” and are taught in small tutorial groups. The college system at Cambridge, like the one at Oxford University, enables staff and students of different disciplines to come together and exchange ideas.

Each college appoints its own academic staff, known as fellows or dons, all of whom have rooms in the college. The fellows are also members of the departments of the university—a distinct organization of which the colleges are a part.

Steven V. Ley, for example, is BP 1702 professor of organic chemistry in Cambridge University’s chemistry department and a fellow of Trinity College. Chemistry professor and department head Jeremy Sanders is a fellow of Selwyn College.

The university provides formal teaching through lectures, seminars, and practical classes in centralized facilities such as the University Chemical Laboratory. The university also examines and awards degrees to its students.

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CAMBRIDGE MARKS 300 YEARS OF CHEMISTRY



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Copyright © 2002 American Chemical Society



 
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