Fire destroys PhD work

November 2, 2001

Glasgow University may have to seek research council extensions for up to ten botany postgraduates whose work is feared destroyed in a fire.

But some research work and historic memorabilia has been salvaged, and the 100-year-old Bower building will not have to be demolished, after a four-hour battle to control the fire.

The restoration project is expected to take two years and to cost £6.5 million for the building and £3.5 million for equipment.

Botany professor Richard Cogdell said doctoral students' books, plant and seed cultures in three laboratories had been salvaged. He praised the firefighters and demolition crews for their efforts: they saved a signed engraving of Darwin, historic microscopes and rare wax model flowers. "They were very gentle and sensitive and... brought out some of the most important material," he said.

Professor Cogdell said two laboratories were still unsafe, and the extent of the damage to ten students' research was unknown. "We are negotiating with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to get them extensions," he said.

The university has moved researchers into incubator units earmarked for start-up companies. "It will take a couple of months to re-equip them, but there is a big impact on research because we have to start everything from scratch," Professor Cogdell said.

Undergraduate teaching has continued unaffected. A second-year examination paper was destroyed, but one academic had a disk of a previous year's questions that were redrafted in time for the exam this week.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated. Arson has been ruled out. Robin Leake, vice-principal for estates, said the fire began in roof space just above the office of a PhD student who was working at the time and would have heard anything suspicious.

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