Key points

  • Planning is underway for Chemistry to occupy the Molecular Sciences Research Hub (“building C”) on the College’s new White City campus. The building is currently under construction with an estimated date for handover of early-2018.
  • The building will accommodate all of Chemistry’s research and postgraduate training, including space for the Department to grow to become one of the largest in the world, with research spanning across the whole range of modern Molecular Science.
  • Final year undergraduate projects (MSci/BSc) will also be carried out in the new state-of-the-art research labs at White City. The building also has a large (ca. 242 capacity) lecture theatre, so some undergraduate lectures (particularly for final year students) can also be held there.
  • Years 1 and 2 undergraduate teaching will largely remain at South Kensington, in upgraded facilities.
  • Preliminary planning for these upgraded teaching facilities in South Kensington has also started.

Frequently Asked Questions

What/where is the White City campus?

White City Campus is the College’s major new campus, co-locating world class researchers, entrepreneurs, businesses and higher education partners to translate and commercialise cutting-edge research for the benefit of society. The ~25 acre site which will support innovation on an unprecedented scale in London is situated in White City, adjacent to the A40 and approximately 500m from the College’s existing Hammersmith Campus. The nearest Tube stations are White City (Central Line) and Wood Lane (Hammersmith & City Line).

Excitingly, this venture is taking place within the context of widespread regeneration in White City, following the vision set out in the 2014 White City Opportunity Area Framework to develop the area as a centre for creativity and innovation. In addition to Imperial, major organisations such as the BBC, Westfield, Berkeley and Stanhope are committed to 5000 new homes, 19,000 jobs and 2 million square foot of new workspace in the surrounding ecosystem.

Why does Chemistry need a new building?

We need new facilities to maintain our position as a world-leading Department. Our current research space is limited, inappropriate and inadequate for modern research: we need access to a greater number of fumehoods and improved key infrastructure – cell culture/protein production facilities, anti-vibration lab space, centralized analytical facilities. The new building will deliver all of this and allow us to seed a new molecular sciences neighbourhood at White City that connects with work in other synergistic areas including synthetic biology, data sciences, and the movement to personalise healthcare. In addition, it will give us exciting new opportunities for collaboration: next door to the new building will be the Translation and Innovation Hub, housing major technology partners, new start-ups and fast-growth technology companies. This will create exciting possibilities for us, bringing our research together with industry to confront the grand challenges of energy, healthcare and the environment.

Why can’t Chemistry have a new building on the South Kensington campus?

A Masterplanning study revealed that a new building on the South Kensington campus is not feasible. There is not sufficient or appropriate space of the type needed for modern chemistry research.

When will Chemistry move?

The current handover date for the new building is estimated at early-2018. It is therefore likely that the move will start around Easter 2018. Given the need to ensure continuity in the availability of key services and equipment, the move will be a phased operation.  

What parts of Chemistry will move?

The new building is likely to accommodate all of Chemistry’s research and postgraduate training, including space for the Department to grow. Final year undergraduate (MSci, BSc) projects and some (4th/3rd year) undergraduate lectures will also be held in the new building.

What will happen to first and second year undergraduate teaching?

First and second year undergraduate teaching will remain in South Kensington, as at present. The teaching facilities will be upgraded and expanded.

What will happen to final year MSci teaching?

As well as state-of-the-art new research facilities, the new building at White City also contains a lecture theatre (capacity ca. 242), several smaller meeting/teaching rooms, and a cafe/common room area. Final year MSci undergraduates will therefore be able to carry out all of their academic activity (lectures, projects etc.) in White City and will benefit from the experience of working as part of world-leading research teams in the new facilities.

What about BSc final year and MSci year 3?

At the moment, our course has two year 3 streams (BSc final year and MSci year 3) with significant overlap in lecture and lab content. We are in the process of reviewing year 3 to ensure that both student groups receive optimum training. BSc students carry out a research project, and it is expected that this will take place in White City. Non-project lab work is likely to remain in South Kensington. Other teaching (lectures, problem classes) could potentially take place either in South Kensington or in White City. In designing a new year 3 course structure, the need to avoid student travel between sites during the day will be a top priority.

What about staff and postgraduate teaching assistants?

A core group of teaching and support staff will remain at South Kensington to support the students based there. Other staff and postgraduate students will be based at White City, but will carry out some teaching (especially for years 1 and 2 undergraduate students) at South Kensington. Where possible, these activities will be timetabled to minimise travel between sites.

What will happen to Chemistry in South Kensington?

Preliminary masterplanning is underway for new Chemistry teaching facilities in South Kensington. When it comes to the design phase, we hope to get the views of a wide range of students and staff about what these facilities should look like.

In the meantime, ongoing improvements to current teaching facilities will continue.

How will links between South Kensington and White City be maintained?

We see students and staff on the two campuses as part of a single Department of Chemistry community and are already thinking about several ways of ensuring links between the two. For example, we will arrange regular visits to/events in White City for years 1 and 2 undergraduates, and will continue to increase the number of Undergraduate Research Opportunity (UROP) places that we offer to allow students to experience the new facilities first-hand.

While we will aim to minimise travel during the day for both staff and students, there is already a regular free shuttle bus service between the two campuses with plans to increase the frequency of the service as demand increases.

What other activities will take place on the White City campus?

Plans for the part of the White City site situated north of the A40 are well advanced. Postgraduate accommodation is already open, with over 500 postgraduates and early-career researchers living on the new campus. The Molecular Science Research Hub is adjacent to the Translation and Innovation Hub, a flagship activity on the campus which will allow co-location with industrial partners. The latter building will host 1000 researchers and 50 companies providing a wonderful opportunity for the breakthroughs made in the Chemistry Department to be translated and commercialised. This innovation ecosystem at White City will add significant value to the student learning experience and better prepare our graduates for the future. The Michael Uren Centre for Biomedical Engineering will also be situated on the same site. Proximity to the Hammersmith Hospital and its research complex which are only 5 minutes away will also ensure that our research feeds into healthcare. Overall, the opportunity is unique - in time, the White City campus will be equal in size and scope to its South Kensington counterpart.

What facilities will be available on the Campus?

The new building will include a cafe/common room facility similar to the one in South Kensington. In the coming months, we will be working with College, with key input from students, to identify the other key facilities needed on the new campus. These will be in addition to broad spectrum of facilities available locally, from the shops and restaurants of Westfield through to the café culture of Shepherds Bush.

Who is doing what?

Many people in College are contributing to the planning. The Project Director is Prof Alan Armstrong, Head of the Chemistry Department. The User Coordinator, responsible for articulating the Department’s requirements to the architects and building project team, is Prof Paul Lickiss. Dr Bridge Duncombe, Director of Undergraduate Studies, is leading the discussions and consultation with regards to requirements for teaching facilities, in collaboration with Prof Alan Spivey in his role as Director of Education for the Faculty of Natural Sciences.

How can I contribute?

We welcome comments, questions and suggestions and look forward to working with students, staff and friends of the Department to shape our future. If you have suggestions, questions or comments, please email chemiw@imperial.ac.uk or Prof Alan Armstrong a.armstrong@imperial.ac.uk