Professor Robin Harris

Robin Harris, who served for the triennium beginning on 1 August 1989<1>, had joined the Department in 1984, bringing from the University of East Anglia an international profile in solid-state nuclear-magnetic-resonance spectroscopy. With the benefit of experience from the first twenty years of that new university’s growth, he added to the momentum of the Department’s emergence from the constraints of the 1970s and 1980s, sharpening its profile towards the Faculty of Science and the University’s executive.

In October 1989, directorates of undergraduate and graduate studies were created to improve the monitoring of students’ learning experience and the informing of teaching practice. At the same time, teachers of physical and theoretical chemistry aiding the assimilation of lectures began to meet larger groups of final-year undergraduates and to use worked examples; the move from tutorials (4-6 undergraduates) to workshops (14-24) spread to other teachers and second-year undergraduates. A rolling programme of Science-Faculty visits, which assessed the Department in May 1990, reported effective delivery of chemistry curricula. Undergraduates at the end of their second year were beginning to seek one-year placements in industry; those academically strong were supported and obtained concessions for an intercalated year. By the end of the triennium, successive appeals to the University’s executive had raised the chemistry-undergraduate admission quota from 69 to 93 and the Department's teachers were ready for the first cohorts (1992, October) of two degree programmes at the Joint-University (Durham and Teesside) College on Teesside. The College was the forerunner of what became known from 2002 as Durham University Queen’s Campus.

The number of the Department’s research-group leaders on October 1 rose from 20 (1989) to 21 (1992), with a synchronous growth in the intake of doctoral students from 28 to 42. Examinable lectures for first-year postgraduates were introduced (1990, January), and the preceding month saw the first assessed poster session for postgraduates in the second or third year of study. The triennium was marked by two internal promotions to professor (Williams, 1991; Parker, 1992) and two substantial research grants in the summer of 1989. The larger was awarded by the Science and Engineering Research Council in the form of an interdisciplinary research centre (IRC) in polymer science and technology jointly to the universities of Durham, Leeds and Bradford. Funded by block grant for six years from October 1, it had Professor Jim Feast as its Durham director and a readership (external appointment, 1989, Richards) resourced from funds released by establishment of the Courtaulds chair in 1988. The second, from Tioxide PLC, assisted the establishment in 1991 of a chair in crystallography (external appointment, Howard) in order to resume single-crystal X-ray diffraction work at Durham after the death in service of Dr Harry Shearer (1923-1979). A research-assessment exercise, conducted by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and covering the calendar years 1989-1991, graded the Department 5, the highest of five grades http://www.rae.ac.uk/1992/c26-92.html.

The effectiveness of administration within Chemistry was increased by fortnightly meetings of section heads (acting as a management advisory committee) and by making other committees smaller, with each member’s responsibility defined. With the growing cooperation of the University’s executive, the return of a share of research-grant overheads to the grants’ investigators became more timely and transparent. Extra accommodation for research was created from the reconstitution of the Science Laboratories mechanical workshop as a Chemistry-Biology operation (1990, April), from the acquisition (1990, October) of a part of the University’s industrial research laboratories’ accommodation at the Mountjoy Building, and by completion in May 1991 of stage 3 of the Chemistry-Geology Building for the crystallography research group (part of the ground floor), the IRC (first floor) and Geological Sciences (second floor).

1. Durham University, Board of Studies in Chemistry, minutes, 1989-1992.


For 1986-1989, see Professor Kenneth Wade; for 1992-1995, see Professor Lyn Williams.

Robin Harris' Research Group

hod/prof._robin_harris.txt · Last modified: 2016/05/26 14:32 (external edit)
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