14 November 2013 15:50

Major investment in teaching and research facilities and equipment will provide an additional boost to the newly opened Chemistry Department at Lancaster University.

The news comes hot on the heels of the opening of the new Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Laboratory, which houses two NMR spectrometers and has the capacity to grow over time as new equipment is invested in.

NMR, an invaluable technique for synthetic chemists who design and build molecules in a laboratory environment, is used to determine the structure and connectivity of the manufactured molecules.

It has similar underlying principles as Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanners (MRIs) used in medicine, where molecules are subjected to strong magnetic fields from liquid-helium cooled superconducting magnets to reveal detailed information about their structure and environment.

The department has also just appointed Professor David Middleton, a world-renowned expert in the more specialised field of solid-state NMR.

Previously at the Institute of Integrative Biology at the University of Liverpool, Professor Middleton’s expertise lies in the application of solid-state NMR techniques to biological systems, for example, studying the intricate details of protein structure.

The new Chemistry facility will include a second NMR Laboratory to house a £1 million dedicated solid-state NMR instrument to enable Professor Middleton to support his research in this field.

This brings the total investment in the new Chemistry Department to more than £26 million.

Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University Professor Mark E Smith, also an expert in solid-state NMR, said he was delighted that the ability to conduct NMR experiments had returned to Lancaster.

“The importance of NMR to both the Chemistry Department and the Faculty of Science and Technology here at Lancaster University cannot be overstated,” said Professor Smith. “NMR is an invaluable tool for the characterisation of molecules which is so important in chemical research and teaching.”

Professor of Analytical Chemistry and Founding Head of the Department of Chemistry Peter Fielden added:  “Our new undergraduate degree programme recognises this importance, which is why one of the new instruments is dedicated to teaching, so our students have an extensive practical, as well as theoretical, knowledge of NMR.”

The department’s first cohort of undergraduate students, who started in October this year, have already had the opportunity to use the NMR laboratory to help characterise a molecule they synthesised in a recent teaching experiment.

Professor Fielden said the NMR Laboratory linked in with the wider plans for the development of chemistry at Lancaster.

“Lancaster has understood the significance of chemistry to the University, the community and industry, particularly since the North West of England has one of the largest concentrations of chemistry-related industry in the UK,” he explained.

“The University has, as part of its support, recently approved investment in high-quality scientific equipment, a major redevelopment programme to create a new Chemistry facility and investment in new staff, on top of the existing NMR lab. Combined, these investments will provide extensive facilities to support our research and teaching across many areas of chemistry.”

He welcomed Professor Middleton’s arrival and felt his expertise would benefit the student experience in the Chemistry Department and would add great value to research