King’s chemistry department rises again

King’s College London has re-opened its chemistry department eight years after concluding that it was unsustainable.

The high-profile closure of the department in 2003 occurred amid what is described on the new departmental website as “a national climate of declining student numbers”, and was preceded by a mass exodus by chemists to other institutions.

However, King’s still has around 30 chemists working in other departments, such as forensic science and biochemistry.

Chris Mottershead, vice-principal for research and innovation at King’s, said the restoration of the chemistry department reflected a sense that the college’s chemists needed an “identity” and to feel they were valued by the institution in their own right.

It also reflected the fact that the number of students who wanted to study chemistry had increased in recent years.

But Mr Mottershead emphasised that the institution would not be “trying to do chemistry as we did previously”.

Its new four-year undergraduate course in chemistry with biomedicine, which will begin in 2012, would be “a proper accredited chemistry degree but one very focused on the careers [in the medical field] people would have afterwards”.

He also emphasised that the impetus for the course had come from the academics themselves, who “wanted to teach chemistry and think chemistry is an important thing to be taught”.

Chemists from all over King’s will be involved in teaching the course, but the college will also recruit another five chemists to work in the new department’s physical “hub”.

“The [existing] research will stay where it is being applied at the moment,” Mr Mottershead said. “But we have to have a physical centre as well or the whole thing will be too difficult to run.”

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