Sir Harry returns to UK - and to Sussex

October 13, 2006

Nobel prizewinning chemist Sir Harry Kroto has been lured back to Britain from the US to work in a chemistry department that narrowly escaped the axe this year, The Times Higher can exclusively reveal.

Sir Harry sparked a national outcry when he left Sussex University for Florida State University in 2004, citing a lack of financial support for his work.

But this week he confirmed that he had agreed to return part time to the chemistry department at Sussex.

The news comes less than six months after protests forced Sussex vice-chancellor Alasdair Smith to abandon his controversial plans to close the university's top-rated department of chemistry.

Gerry Lawless, the head of the department, told The Times Higher this week that getting Sir Harry back on board was further confirmation that his department was "here to stay".

He said: "It is amazing really. One minute we were facing closure, and the next we were advertising four new posts, welcoming Harry back and increasing our student numbers."

Sir Harry said: "I am trying to build up a nanotechnology network that will include Sussex, Florida, Mexico and Japan."

When he left Britain two years ago, shortly before his 65th birthday, he said that his age would make it much harder for him to operate in this country.

But employment regulations that came into force this month make it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers because of age.

Professor Lawless said: "The new retirement laws played a part in signing Harry again. It is completely arbitrary to retire academics - not to mention Nobel laureates - just because they have reached a certain age."

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