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50-Year Anniversary Celebration and the Official Opening of Block F

Posted on 8 September 2014

The opening of our latest new building coincides with our anniversary and the launch of our York Chemistry 50 Fund.

To celebrate the success of the Department, on our golden anniversary, we invited our Chemistry alumni to join us for the opening of our latest new building over the weekend of 5-7 September 2014. The opening of Block F, which houses our Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence and our undergraduate teaching laboratories, is the latest development arising from a £29 million investment in Chemistry at York.

I remember being interviewed by David Waddington in December 1964. He asked me a question, which I knew I had to think about. Fortunately, his telephone rang, which gave me time to think out the answer. I got an offer of three E’s a few weeks later

'A favourite memory', Roy

Our celebrations started with opening ceremonies for the two parts of the new development. Dame Ellen MacArthur opened the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence’s new research facilities while the teaching labs were opened by the first female President of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Professor Lesley Yellowlees, of Edinburgh University and by Professor Sir John Holman, Senior Education Advisor to the Wellcome Trust, who also presented a demonstration lecture on "Teaching Science the Practical Way" in the National Science Learning Centre.

Over 200 guests attended Professor Holman’s talk, which was followed by an exhibition, highlighting some of our recent teaching innovations, with participation by the Royal Society of Chemistry and Alfa Aesar. Finally, Professors David Smith and James Clark joined Professors Yellowlees and Holman, to take part in a panel Q&A session on the challenges and opportunities facing chemists in teaching and research.

On Saturday, over 100 of our alumni enjoyed a packed programme of events starting with a welcome reception, sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry, featuring a periodic table-themed cake. Our guests enjoyed a panel session that focussed on the early days of the Department, with reminiscences from Professors David Waddington, Eleanor Dodson, and Bruce Gilbert, along with Dr Roger Mawby and former student Chris Boon.

There was the opportunity to ‘go back in the lab’, with our alumni analysing inks and painkillers, together with a Chemistry-at-York quiz, followed by a tour of our new teaching laboratories.


Our alumni also heard about some recent developments in our teaching and research, with talks by Professor David Smith, recent graduate Lizzie Wilcock, Dr Avtar Matharu and postgraduate student Kirsty Davey.

Finally, the Vice Chancellor joined us for our official 50th anniversary dinner and reunion, with an after dinner speech by Professor Paul Walton on the Chemistry of Chocolate.

My abiding memory of the weekend of celebrations is of the enduring bond between the early York students and their lecturers, a bond that has lasted almost 50 years.  This illustrates the continuing York ethos  - to carry out world-leading research whilst ensuring that our students receive the best possible educational experience and pastoral support

Professor Richard Taylor, Head of Department

We enjoyed meeting old friends, rekindling old memories and launching our York Chemistry 50 Fund, established to support our students and researchers - helping to ensure we continue to be the Department of choice for talented chemists.

Chemistry graduate Dr Anthony H. Wild (a major supporter of the Department’s investment into laboratory and teaching space) has initiated a matching challenge to help encourage fellow alumni to support the York Chemistry 50 Fund. Between September 2014 and December 2015 graduates were asked to support the appeal and all donations were matched £1 for £1. Gifts over £500 were matched £2 for every £1 given.

Alumni Booklet

To celebrate our anniversary we produced a booklet highlighting some of our notable events and key achievements.

Also, a number of former members of staff, together with the Head of Department, are in the process of compiling a book that charts the first fifty years of Chemistry at York.  

If you would like to receive further information on the book, please contact Professor Richard Taylor.

We look forward to keeping in touch with our alumni – there are a number of ways they can interact with the Department. This includes:

Attending a Chemistry seminar and/or Open Day

Talking about their career at an undergraduate careers event

Writing an article for Chemistry Review

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