Researchers are still waiting in the wings to take up positions at the all-new University of Manchester

Researchers are still waiting in the wings to take up positions at the all-new University of Manchester, launched in October 2004 following the merger of UMIST and the Victoria University of Manchester.

’To be honest, this merger is chaos,’ said Nick Turner, who became chair of chemical biology at Manchester last year, but is still based in Edinburgh where he was professor of biological chemistry. ’If you imagine merging two big universities, think about merging all the undergraduate courses, all the administration.I’ve been there a few times and I detect chaos,’ he told Chemistry World. ’There are portakabins parked on top of portakabins!’

Both Turner and his wife Sabine Flitsch, formerly professor of protein chemistry at Edinburgh, are due to relocate to the Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre (MIB). But while the MIB remains under construction - due to open this summer - the University of Edinburgh has agreed to house its former employees. ’It’s a win-win situation,’ said Turner. Edinburgh has recruited replacements for Turner and Flitsch, but they are not due to start for a few months so the couple’s exit would have left ’a bit of a hole’. And Turner’s students are still with him, so Edinburgh is benefiting from the grants that come with the students.

Turner’s final-year students will stay at Edinburgh; first- and second-year students will relocate to Manchester. The MIB project is unique in the UK, says Turner: ’The concept is that there’ll be people that belong to chemistry, biology, physics, and informatics; they’ll belong to parent schools, but do their research in this multidisciplinary research centre.’ The project appeals to Turner and Flitsch as their research sits at the interface. They will set up two new centres of excellence at the MIB: the Centre of Excellence in Biocatalysis, Biotransformation and Biomanufacture (CoEBio3; see Chemistry World July 2004, p11) and a Glycomics Centre.

’My feeling is the Manchester merger has clearly created some sort of sense of anticipation in the sense it’s now the biggest university in the UK,’ said Turner. The university has the biggest BBSRC income, and the second biggest EPSRC income (See Chemistry World, November 2004, p11). This, coupled with private investment, has triggered a major recruitment and development drive.

’It’s quite an aggressive approach and I think it has woken people up a bit and they’re keeping an eye on what’s going on,’ he said.

Bea Perks