Opening of Second Phase of Dorothy Hodgkin Building, Department of Chemistry

Posted on 6 December 2012

A new £9.4 million second phase to a key research building – the latest stage in a major re-development programme in the Department of Chemistry at the University of York – was opened officially on 31 October. The first phase was completed in August 2004.

Picture of Dorothy Hodgkin 2

Underscoring York’s enduring link with one of the UK’s outstanding scientists of the 20th century, the new facilities were opened by Professor Michael Grätzel, the Director of the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. Before opening the building, Professor Michael Grätzel gave a public lecture entitled ‘Power from the Sun, solar cells that mimic photosynthesis’.

Michael Grätzel is famous for his invention of the dye-sensitised solar cells and has received many prizes for his work including the 2012 Albert Einstein World Award of Science. His lecture demonstrated the need for more use to be made of solar energy and illustrated the basis of the dye-sensitised solar cell and its commercial scale development. Unlike conventional photovoltaics, these Grätzel cells, as they are called, can be made on rolls of plastic and can be fitted to transparent and curved surfaces for electric power generation including to windows. The original invention was published in 1991, but it has taken twenty years of development to improve its performance - Grätzel cells are now being manufactured by several companies including two in Wales.

The new facilities are in the second phase of the building named after Professor Hodgkin, who completed her pioneering research on the molecular structure of insulin in York. They are part of a £29 million phased investment in Chemistry which will also include new undergraduate teaching laboratories, work on which is due to start next month.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of York, Professor Brian Cantor, said: “We take great pride in our association with Dorothy Hodgkin. This exciting research building, named after her, reflects our commitment to Chemistry in York. These excellent new facilities will help our talented researchers to continue their world-leading research and to make discoveries that make a tangible difference to society.”

The opening of this modern research building is the next phase in a major redevelopment of Chemistry research at York. Exciting times for Chemistry Research at York lie ahead!

Professor Richard Taylor, Head of the Department of Chemistry

The Head of the Department of Chemistry, Professor Richard Taylor, added: “The opening of this modern research building is the next phase in a major redevelopment of Chemistry research at York. The Centre for Hyperpolarisation in Magnetic Resonance (CHyM) will also be completed shortly and planning permission has been received for an Integrated Global Atmospheric Chemistry laboratory and a new two-storey teaching/research building which will house the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence. Exciting times for Chemistry Research at York lie ahead!”

The building is constructed on the site of the laboratory where, in her retirement in the 1970s and 1980s, Professor Hodgkin wrote up the findings of a total of more than 30 years’ research into insulin structures carried out principally in Oxford.

Professor Hodgkin, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964, visited the University of York frequently between 1976 and 1988 at the invitation of Professors Guy and Eleanor Dodson, of the Department of Chemistry, who had worked with her on insulin research at Oxford.

Professor Hodgkin, who died in 1994, was a familiar sight in the Chemistry Department’s old D block which was demolished to make way for the building which now bears her name. She lectured at York and was awarded an honorary degree by the University.

Opening of Dorothy Hodgkin 2 laboratory tour

The day featured tours of the new facilities and a scientific symposium including contributions from Professor Emma Raven , of the University of Leicester (The many faces of heme in biology), and Professor Dave Haddleton, of the University of Warwick (Polymer bioconjugates from living polymerisation - improved therapeutics), as well as a joint lecture by Dr John Slattery and Dr Jason Lynam, of the Department of Chemistry at York (A mechanism-driven approach to the development of atom-efficient catalytic transformations: Experimental and theoretical perspectives).  These talks were chosen to reflect the areas of chemistry research being carried out in the new building and the large audience were captivated by the cutting-edge science with very lively question and answer sessions following all of the lectures.

Dorothy Hodgkin 2 opening symposium speakers

L to R: Professor Michael Grätzel, Professor Emma Raven, Dr John Slattery, Dr Jason Lynam, Professor David Haddleton

Dorothy Hodgkin 2 opening heads of department and plaque

L to R: Professor Robin Perutz FRS (former HoD Chemistry), Professor Paul Walton (former HoD Chemistry), Professor Michael Grätzel, Professor Brian Cantor, Professor Richard Taylor (current HoD Chemistry) and Professor Bruce Gilbert (former HoD Chemistry)