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New Faculty of Natural Sciences to be formed at Imperial College London

For Immediate Release
Tuesday 1 November 2005

Imperial College London announces today that it is to create a new Faculty of Natural Sciences, by combining its existing Faculties of Life Sciences and Physical Sciences.

This will create a new academic grouping of the College's internationally recognised scientific researchers in Natural Sciences, allowing them to take greater advantage of the increasingly close alignment of scientific disciplines. At the last Research Assessment Exercise, Imperial life and physical scientists were awarded the top '5*' status in five areas, and among them are 27 Fellows of the Royal Society.

Professor Sir Peter Knight, Principal of the Faculty of Natural SciencesThe College's Rector, Sir Richard Sykes FRS, has asked Professor Sir Peter Knight FRS Opens in new window to lead the new Faculty, with immediate effect. Sir Peter is currently Head of the Department of Physics, a post he has held since 2001.

The new combined Faculty will employ over 1,100 staff, teach over 2,700 undergraduates, train over 680 PhD students, and have a research income totalling £56.5 million (2004-05 figures), bringing it close in size to the College's other Faculties, of Engineering and Medicine.

The new Faculty of Natural Sciences, which is formed today, will develop under Sir Peter's leadership, with the aim of becoming fully operational on 1 August 2006.

Professor Michael Duff Opens in new window, Principal of the Faculty of Physical Sciences, and Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz Opens in new window, who has been Acting Principal of the Faculty of Life Sciences as well as Deputy Rector, will step down from their Faculty roles on 31 December 2005. In the interim, they will work with the new Faculty Principal to ensure a smooth transition.

Professor Borysiewicz will remain Deputy Rector, an appointment he has held since August 2004.

Professor Duff will take up the Abdus Salam Chair of Theoretical Physics, becoming leader of a strengthened Theoretical Physics grouping at the College. The Chair recognises one of the College's most celebrated physicists, 1979 Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Abdus Salam. Professor Duff undertook his doctoral studies with Professor Salam at Imperial College.

Announcing the news to staff internally, Sir Richard Sykes thanked Professors Borysiewicz and Duff for their service, support and leadership of the Faculties, and said:

"Science doesn't stand still and our academic structures need to change too, to reflect new opportunities and understanding, and help us move our interdisciplinary thinking further forward.

"When we announced the Faculty structure in 2001, we kept Life and Physical Sciences apart, but today it is increasingly apparent that discipline areas within these two Faculties are becoming more closely aligned: chemistry with biochemistry; physics with biophysics; mathematics and systems biology; and bioinformatics across all. The scientific case for bringing the two together is compelling and exciting.

"The amalgamation to a larger single Faculty makes managerial sense as well as academic sense. The two smaller Faculties of the original four, we have to recognise, are probably not able to take full advantage of the Faculty structure. We will look to make savings from restructuring at the top-level of the Faculties and, in future, efficiencies in the way the new Faculty runs support services.

"The research and teaching quality of the two present Faculties has always been recognised as pre-eminent, but what we are now creating is a Faculty of a similar size to Engineering and Medicine, and offering an improved balance to the community of scholars at Imperial."

Further details on the structure and senior staffing of the Faculty are expected to be announced in early 2006.


For more information please contact:

Abigail Smith
Imperial College London Press Office
Tel: 020 7594 6701

Notes to Editors

About Faculties at Imperial College London

The move to a Faculty structure was announced in May 2001.

The College's other Faculties are Engineering and Medicine. The Tanaka Business School has the same status as a Faculty.

The Faculty Principal reports directly to the Rector, and represents all the departments and centres within their Faculty on the Management Board, the College's senior decision-making body.

Facts about the new Faculty of Natural Sciences

Based on the latest figures (2004-05) the new Faculty of Sciences will include 325 academic staff, 501 research staff and 372 support staff. It will have approximately 2,774 UG and 1,128 PG students, 688 of whom will be PhD research students.

Among its current staff will be 27 Fellows of the Royal Society, one Fellow of the British Academy and a Fields Medal winner.

Its combined research income will total £56.5 million.

Departments, Divisions, Centres and Institutes within the two Faculties at present are:

Life Sciences

  • Division of Biology
  • Division of Biomedical Sciences
  • Division of Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Division of Molecular Biosciences
  • Centre for Environmental Policy

Physical Sciences

  • Department of Chemistry
  • Department of Mathematics
  • Department of Physics
  • Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine
  • Institute for Mathematical Sciences

About Professor Sir Peter Knight

Professor Sir Peter Knight, 57, is the Head of the Physics Department at Imperial College London and leads a large research group within the Quantum Optics and Laser Science (QOLS) Group working on the theory of quantum information and quantum optics.

He is also Chief Scientific Advisor at the UK National Physical Laboratory, a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and of the Optical Society of America and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1999. He was awarded the Thomas Young Medal from the Institute of Physics in 1999, the Einstein Medal for Laser Science and the Parsons Medal.

Sir Peter first came to Imperial in 1979, after working in the United States at Stanford and Rochester Universities and in the UK at Sussex and Royal Holloway. He became head of the department of physics in 2001 and acted as Principal of the Faculty of Physical Sciences in 2004 until May 2005.

In 2004 he became the first President of the Optical Society of America to be elected from outside North America. He is editor of Contemporary Physics and the Journal of Modern Optics.

He was knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2005 for "services to optical physics."

About Imperial College London

Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students (11,000) and staff (6,000) of the highest international quality.
Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that enhance the quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.