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 Symposium ignites grass roots Chemistry

Professors Lu and Hor and Dr Williams outside the symposium venue
Professors Lu and Hor and Dr Williams outside the symposium venue

Finding ground-upwards solutions to the likes of climate change and energy was the focus when a group of chemists from The University of Queensland (UQ) and National University of Singapore (NUS) converged for a two-day symposium held 15-16 December 2008.

The group of 40 scientists met to discuss their latest teaching and research at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) Auditorium, located on UQ’s St Lucia campus.
The event’s facilitator, School of Molecular and Microbial Sciences’ Dr Craig Williams, said the symposium was “reciprocal” in nature, as NUS had invited UQ representatives to attend a similar forum in April this year.
“It’s about extending the links between Singapore and Australia in the chemistry setting,” Dr Williams said.
NUS Chemistry Department head Professor Andy Hor said one of the hoped-for symposium outcomes was to set both universities up for future research success.  “NUS wants to achieve at the top – but this has to happen at the ground,” Professor Hor said.  “It is important to bring the chemists face-to-face to achieve highly.”
Professor Hor said the symposium signified the chance for good chemists to share “aspirations and ideas”.  “It’s not focusing on classical chemistry,” he said.  “It brings attention to emerging areas, including nanomaterials, medicine, and energy and the environment. We have a lot of people who are working in these areas and I feel we can make some big changes in the future.”
UQ’s Pro Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Max Lu echoed Professor Hor’s statements.  “It’s a very exciting opportunity for both institutions to start from the ground up and discover possible collaborations,” he said.
Professor Lu said when dealing with “big issues” such as climate change, energy and medicine, multi-national collaboration, like that seen at the UQ-NUS symposium, was what was needed to move forward.  “To bring together so many shows the strength of the bonding,” Professor Lu said of the partnership.
He described the symposium’s topics as “all exciting”.  “From the university’s perspective, this is a well-organised, timely and necessary event,” he said.
Professor Hor said the symposium aligned with his university’s stance of being “a global university centre in Asia”.  “We want NUS to be collaborating with the top universities in the world – north to China, west to India and south to Australia,” he said.  “Australia has a huge potential in resources, in education and in manpower, and a decision to work with a top institution like UQ, with its background in life sciences and chemistry, is very easy to make.”
The symposium received $30,000 in funding from UQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) David Siddle.
By Bryony Triggs, Faculty of Science Office.