Professor David Clark

David Clark [for biographical notes click David Clark's Research Group], though officially Head of Department and Chairman of the Board of Studies in Chemistry for twenty-three months from 1 October 1981, served from 1 June 1981 for four months as acting chairman and then in his own right until 30 June 1983; thereafter, his successor was acting chairman for two months1. Perceiving a need for greater commitment and consultation throughout Departmental activities, David Clark speedily set up eight working parties and spread tasks among them, re-briefed the Board's existing committees (admissions, management, library, safety and high hazards) and added three more. They were to review the teaching of undergraduates and cross-fertilisation of research interests, to manage expenditure on equipment and to monitor services supporting research. The new chairman added the impetus of his fundamental belief that research should be interdisciplinary and its expertise marketed to industry. The resulting tide of change produced the first of the Department's annual photographs, the purchase of its first car and waves of hyperactivity among academic staff pursuing Departmental projects that periodically swamped administrative support.

Undergraduates experienced a step change; suddenly they became part of the business of running an ambitious academic department. Applicants for entry in 1982 were the first to be given tours of the Department and to be encouraged to ask about the study programme on offer. Those who became entrants scored another first by receiving, a month before entry, a programme of 3 weeks' guided pre-entry study. In October 1981, entrants received the Department's first tangible undergraduate welcome - a wine-and-cheese supper at Grey College in Fountains Hall - and individuals were photographed at registration so that in tutorials staff could fit names to faces. An extensively-revised programme of lectures and laboratory work was introduced in October 1982 and rippled through to second- and third-year teaching (1983-5). For second-year Chemistry undergraduates, 1982 was the last year for instruction in translation from scientific German and the compulsory passing of the ensuing test. In October 1983 its replacement by the teaching of computational chemistry was formalised and the Board's first teacher of theoretical chemistry (Patrick Fowler) took up a three-year post. From October 1982 (and until June 1997), all examinable lectures and two-thirds of the laboratory classes went into the first two terms, with the Easter Term for formal examinations (weeks 2,3) and the remaining laboratory classes (4-6; organic). Weeks 7-9 provided time for the preparation of a dissertation, compensating for the University's withdrawal, in October 1981, of its grants to undergraduates engaged in such work during summer vacations. A novel agreement with local industry, facilitated by a Durham alumnus and lasting until June 2005, produced in June 1982 an inaugural annual awards evening, college-based, at which interviews by industrialists and Departmental academics (three of each), and then a dinner for all twelve concerned, gave a Tioxide scholarship (termly cash) for the ensuing academic year to one of three first-year undergraduates, and another to one of three second-years. In 1982 also, from October, knowledge delivered in lectures to third-year Chemists was separated into core (75%) and optional (25%); undergraduates were invited to choose 67% of the optional lectures on which to be examined.

The inaugural annual graduate symposium for higher-education institutions of the Tyne-Wear-Tees region was held at Durham in 1982; it accorded with the Department's measures to improve the monitoring of its postgraduates' academic progress and their promptness in completing Ph.D. theses. The Department's graduate school remained small, however: on October 1, the number of doctoral students starting in 1981 were 10; 1982, 13; 1983,13. The scarcity of research resources in the higher education sector had become deliberate, driven by the Government's pursuit of value for money. By 1 October 1981, the number of research-group leaders had shrunk to 14, the lowest since 1963, yet despite the critical climate, the Department fought off further shrinkage threatened by a redeployment and the move of David Clark to industrial research (1983); a professorial post freed at lecturer level went to the incoming David Parker and Hugh Munro was appointed to a post won from the first of three annual cycles of new-blood lectureship awards [see also Professor Richard Chambers, paragraph 2]. An internal promotion to professor was secured (Wade, January 1983). Leaders began to meet in three groupings to share colloquia and set up a pooled usage of support staff; a wider view of research led to interdepartmental collaborations (Applied Physics, Botany, Engineering, Physics2), to the beginning (1982) of an exchange of visits with Newcastle University's School of Chemistry and to the registration in January 1983 of the Department's first spin-off company. The Department took a strong lead in harnessing the Universty's sesquicentennial initiative in 1982 to attract funding for the building of the Mountjoy Research Centre, a building with the distinctive footprint of a three-bladed propeller (the building opened in 1985; subsequently it became Mountjoy 1 at the Mountjoy Centre). It was to house in one of its three wings a Centre for Materials Science and Technology, which, in the event, became the University of Durham Industrial Research Laboratories (UDIRL; 1985-2003; occupying Mountjoy 1's southern wing - renamed in 2003 as block 2, Holly) Professor Randal Richards, paragraph 3. The funding attracted included an endowment to provide the salary of the CMST's director for 5 years and another to cover a research fellowship.

In the summer of 1982, each of the seven organofluorine-research fume cupboards in what was then room 117 of the Chemistry-Geology Building was replaced by an aerodynamically designed enclosure with an independent vent and extract motor. The Building's entire stock of cupboards (150) was of inadequate design, so a long road lay ahead. The other significant change in accommodation in 1981-1983 began with a plumber's misfortune; a fire of waste chemicals he triggered unwittingly during lunchtime working alone in an undergraduate laboratory (141) caused his hasty exit and gutted the room (March 1981). The consequent insurance compensation funded the laboratory's conversion later that year into a seminar room; it was named the Musgrave Room. At the same time, in the 1960 stairwell, were installed two roomy, free-standing display cases and a tiny, ground-floor breakout area for undergraduates. It survived until 1991, when a University-managed successor opened outside the Scarbrough and neighbouring lecture theatres.

1. University of Durham, Board of Studies in Chemistry, minutes, 1981-1983.

2. D.T. Clark, personal communication, 2012.


For events before 1 June 1981 see History; for 1983-1986 see Professor Richard Chambers.

hod/david_clark.txt · Last modified: 2016/09/04 20:12 by euan
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