1976-now: Diversification, Consolidation, Commercialisation
Chemistry consolidates and the molecular biosciences grow...
- Chemistry in the 1970s and 1980s was characterised by much stability in its academic staffing, with relatively few additions and most movement due to promotion. The three informal Chemistry sections, each headed by a professor, continued until a more united approach emerged in the 1980s and early 1990s, when the Department was headed by Dr John Hall and then by Associate Professor John Cotton.
- Microbiology grew substantially during this time, restricted only by space. In 1985 there were 180 Honours graduates, 50 masters and 47 PhDs. Industrial Microbiology began to morph into what is now known as Biotechnology.
The scope of the Department of Biochemistry was expanded to explicitly include molecular biology and Professor John Mattick was appointed as the first Professor of Molecular Biology in 1988. The Department strongly supported the establishment of the Centre for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, which went on to become the renowned Institute for Molecular Bioscience. Subsequently the Department sponsored, with Microbiology, the expansion of the Biotechnology Program. Research covering a wide range of areas from biological chemistry to molecular cell biology blossomed during this period.
- When the Molecular Biosciences Building was completed in two stages in 1991 and 1993, the then Departments of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Parasitology transferred to it. Small scale internal refurbishments have occurred since, increasing in number and size more recently.
- In 1998, the departments of Microbiology and Parasitology merged.
- The Chemistry Building, 12 storeys on a relatively small footprint, had been criticised as relatively dangerous in terms of the risk of fire escalation. By 2000, debate centred on whether to replace it or renovate it. The latter won out and a staged refurbishment of the building's interior and exterior commenced in 2003, to modern standards. A number of the refurbishment projects have won architectural awards for interior design, and other universities planning building work visit to inspect the modern teaching and research labs.
- The School of Molecular & Microbial Sciences was formed in 2001 by amalgamating the departments of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Microbiology & Parasitology - part of a UQ-wide rationalisation that saw more than 60 academic departments condensed into around 30 Schools. Initially, heads of each of the three disciplines were appointed, but this was seen to be unnecessary by 2005.
- In 2009, the School's name was changed to Chemistry & Molecular Biosciences.
- The modern era has seen increasing numbers and sophistication in the area of instrumentation (eg, mass spectrometry, NMR and proteomics) and increasing recognition of the need for professional non-academic staff.
- During its first decade, the School witnessed the creation within UQ of large research institutes such as the IMB, AIBN, QBI and Diamantina Institute and contributed expertise to these institutes as well as sharing in their success through strategic alliances.
- The School consolidated its research into selected themes, participated in a major review and restructure of the BSc degree, took ownership of Biotechnology programs, and introduced a postgraduate coursework program in Molecular Biology and one in Bioinformatics.
- It has experienced considerable success in the last 10-15 years commercialising intellectual property, with a number of spin-off companies and patents, and its staff have won good numbers of prestigious competitive research fellowships.
- The School was first reviewed in 2005 and was commended on its support of first year students, the development of postgraduate coursework programs, its relations with industry and the professions, and its internationalisation. At its second review in 2013, the high quality of and innovations in teaching were commended, along with the School's outstanding research success and cross-disciplinary approach. It was encouraged to continue its successful internationalisation program, its ongoing provision of state-of-the-art facilities, and to build on its industry engagement.
- In 2015 the School celebrated the completion of the refurbishment of the Chemistry Building with former staff and students.
|Pictured above:||Refurbished School reception space, April 2015
|Sources:||A Brief History of the Chemistry Department of the University of Queensland 1910-1985, by Barry Chiswell.|
|A History of the Department of Microbiology by V.B.D. Skerman, printed in a commemorative departmental booklet, 1985.|