Lund University Science Village office

The Faculty of Science's and LTH's joint project office for LU's Science Village establishment

The establishment of the Departments of Physics and Chemistry in Science Village – the perspective of the Heads of the Departments

Parked bicycles in front of brown buildings. Photo collage.
Fysicum and Kemicentrum, the current buildings hosting the Departments of Physics and Chemistry.

Text by Leif Bülow, Head of the Department of Chemistry, and Joachim Schnadt, Head of the Department of Physics.

Chemistry and physics are very close in terms of subject matter. According to Nationalencyklopedin (NE), chemistry is “the science of the composition, properties and transformations of material substances” while physics is “the science that studies the structure of matter at the fundamental level and its behavior under different conditions.” Many times, chemists and physicists work with the same issues, but they use different, complementary languages ​​and different, again complementary, approaches to address these issues. They usually use the same theoretical and experimental methods but use them in different ways to find answers.

Leif Bülow (left) and Joachim Schnadt (right)

Strangely enough, the subject proximity is something that is almost invisible in most educational programmes at both LTH and the Faculty of Science, with the exception of the master’s engineering program in technical nanoscience. The connection is clearer on the research side, where there are quite a lot of collaborations in various projects and issues. Additionally, the subject proximity appears to be underutilized in chemistry and physics research at Lund University, despite the fact that there is a very significant overlap in, for example, materials research, research on ultra-fast and dynamic processes, surface sciences, computational physics and chemistry, catalysis research, biotechnology, biophysics and biochemistry, and combustion chemistry and physics. Lund University’s establishment in Science Village gives the subjects of physics and chemistry a unique opportunity to think in new ways and to think together. It is of the utmost importance that the establishment is designed in such a way that a new whole is formed and that the establishment does not become a transfer of two (large) institutions to a new place without integration and without something new being created.

The heads of the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Physics would like to see the following within…

…undergraduate education:

  • The subjects of physics and chemistry (ie the programs in physics/theoretical physics and chemistry at the Faculty of Science as well as technical physics, chemistry/biotechnology and technical nanoscience) should, when chosen as a major by students, be designed so that they contain significant elements of the second subject; this element should be developed through cross-disciplinary courses, i.e. courses containing both physics and chemistry, which are co-taught by teachers from both of the fields of chemistry and physics.
  • Students in these major subjects should also have the opportunity to come into close contact with life science aspects within their education.
  • The realization of one or more programs for physics and chemistry.
  • Where possible, we would like to see laboratory work and exercises that contain elements of both chemistry and physics. Shared laboratory and work rooms will enable such common teaching elements. This also includes joint computer experiments in lab rooms with advanced computers.
  • In Science Village, we would like to provide high-quality and modern education using new methods of teaching. Due to their close proximity, the subjects of physics and chemistry are excellent for jointly developing such new methods of teaching, including the facilities and other resources necessary for such education.  
  • A shared teachers’ room could give teachers the opportunity for systematic exchange of experience and mutual support. We would like to intensify the collegial cooperation in undergraduate education, through joint teaching and through a culture where interdisciplinary mentorship of younger teachers is a completely normal element in the educational activities of the institutions.
  • We would like the educational facilities in Science Village to be built so that there are natural meeting places for the students who study physics and chemistry courses. These meetings are promoted through the above suggested shared parts of the educational programs, but also by offering joint seminar series aimed at all our students, for example on research and societal challenges (sustainability, energy supply, materials for technical solutions…) and opportunities for recipients (e.g. lectures by alumni, labor fairs…).
  • We believe that it would be advantageous to co-organize the educational organization for physics and chemistry.

…postgraduate education:

  • Many of our research students could benefit greatly from learning more about the “other” subject area and many new opportunities could arise for their research activities. This would also have a very positive effect on the quality of our doctoral programs. What is required, however, is that there is an awareness and a knowledge of the possibilities of the other subject area. Today, we run a number of very successful graduate research schools, some of which are cross-border. We would like to offer all our doctoral students the opportunity to participate in a joint graduate research school for physics and chemistry. A joint graduate research school would have much to gain from a co-location of chemistry and physics. This graduate research school could offer a large number of the courses that all doctoral students study, but it would above all enable networking across subject boundaries.
  • A co-location of physics and chemistry could also strengthen the collaboration between research students with a theoretical focus and those with an experimental focus. We have strong theoretical and experimental activities at both the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Physics. However, we do not always have an ideal match between theory and experiment at one and the same department, at the same time as there may be opportunities at the other department.

…research:

  • There are many small and medium-sized research infrastructures at both the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Physics that could be of great use in the entire field of physics and chemistry, but which are only used by one side. By bringing together the experimental infrastructure of physics and chemistry in a common building, this gap could be bridged, especially if a model for the shared use of such infrastructure is developed, and if it is informed and educated about the possibilities of such an infrastructure. These infrastructures include, for example, spectroscopy, spectrometry and tools for microscopy characterization, tools for sample preparation etc., and shared calculation equipment.
  • Likewise, a joint establishment of chemistry and physics in Science Village offers the opportunity to invest in a mechanical workshop as well as an electronics workshop of the right size where support is given to both research and undergraduate education.
  • We have research groups, for example within Lund’s Laser Center and within NanoLund, but also in other areas, which conduct research with similar issues. Some of these cooperate, while others do not. A joint location of the Department of Physics and the Department of Chemistry in Science Village, without physical boundaries between the two institutions, would promote cooperation within established groupings, while also promoting new collaborations. There are opportunities for direct co-location as well as new organizations and organizational forms.

…support functions:

  • As the chemistry and physics areas work in very similar ways, we see the possibility of joint support functions such as a joint library, joint research support and a joint administration.
  • A common real estate service could work more closely and efficiently to the organization.
  • Such a joint organization, which at the same time must maintain the local anchorage with direct support to the scientific staff, would mean that we become a more attractive employer with better opportunities to recruit highly competent technical and administrative staff.

…cooperation:

  • There are established business contacts at both the Department of Chemistry and at the Department of Physics. These contacts could benefit significantly more students and researchers, especially if we get better opportunities to work across subject boundaries. A close location to spin-offs and small companies in Science Village would provide opportunities for new contacts, and the existing contacts could be used effectively, for example for labor market days for doctoral students and students, for seminars aimed at strengthening business-related research, etc.
  • We would like to see that the building that is common to physics and chemistry has an entrance that enables spontaneous meetings. A shared, central lunch place and café is a must. It should preferably also be open in the evening. Study places need to be planned from the beginning, the same goes for spatial opportunities for student unions and study councils. The social context is important to both students and employees, and this context would be strengthened, for example, through facilities for gyms and other sports.

Leif Bülow och Joachim Schnadt

June 21, 2022

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