Chemistry in Utrecht

Nieuws | de redactie
2 juli 2008 | The research masters in science at Utrecht University are world class. In the 2007 CHE Excellence Ranking, which assesses research programmes in biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics & astronomy, Utrecht is among the top four universities in Europe, together with ETH Zurich, Imperial College London and Cambridge University.

The department of chemistry in Utrecht is especially renowned for its research in Biomolecular Sciences and NanoMaterials. Most professors are prolific authors in peer-reviewed A-journals, and two of them are among the most highly cited.

This is not only the result of hiring excellent researchers, but also the fruit of carefully crafting the research programmes. In catalysis, for example, analytical tools are combined with interdisciplinary collaboration. “Increasingly, I find that quintessential for producing frontier research with high impact”, says Bert Weckhuysen, professor of Heterogeneous Catalysis. Heading CatchBio, Weckhuysen works on developing cleaner processes for biomass conversion into viable and sustainable end products.

Foto: Pieter van Dorp van Vliet / UU

Prestige Masters
In Biomolecular Sciences and NanoMaterials, Utrecht University offers Prestige Masters. Both Masters are interdisciplinary: Biomolecular Sciences is taught by professors of chemistry, biology, medicine and veterinary sciences, whereas in the NanoMaterials Master, chemists and physicists work together. All master courses are taught in English.

A student doing a Prestige Master will spend one year on research, one semester on coursework and one semester abroad. For the teaching component of its Prestige MSc programmes, Utrecht  University collaborates with other leading universities and research institutes worldwide. Some of the courses are taught by international guest lectures, and students are encouraged to spend part of their time during the programme with other groups belonging to Utrecht’s international network in these research areas.

Teaching the Teacher
Utrecht University goes to great lengths to ensure the quality of teaching. Professors have to obtain a basic as well as a senior teaching qualification. “As professors, we will not hire brilliant researchers who cannot teach”, professor Andries Meijerink adds, himself teaching Spectroscopy.

Typically Dutch, interaction between professors and students is informal. Students have ample opportunities to speak to their professors. Over the past few years, teaching in the chemistry was modernized so as to attain a learning environment where rigorous academic education enables students to solve real-life problems. Students are positive about this new approach, some of them indicating that there is still room for improvement.

Compared to other universities, facilities are good. “During my master’s programme, I went to the University of California, Berkeley. There, I found out that the laboratories in Utrecht are also of a high level”, Ph.D.- student Marianne Kox observes.

The city: Utrecht
With 50,000 students and a population of 300,000, Utrecht is a lively student city steeped in Medieval history. After the Romans built a castellum there on the river Rhine, it became an important early Christian centre with many Romanesque churches and the largest Gothic Cathedral in the Low Countries.

Utrecht is on comfortable traveling distance from Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam and Schiphol. Although Dutch is the official language, English is widely spoken as well. The department of chemistry is located on a modern campus with housing facilities as well as sports and cultural centres.

Staff (with a doctoral degree):                                                            141
International staff:                                                                                31%
Master’s students:                                                                               108
Female master’s students:                                                                 38%
International master’s students:                                                         14%
NVAO- Accreditation:                                                                         2008

Excellence Ranking
The 2007 Excellence Ranking of CHE exposes the 66 university departments in Europe with the best research performance in mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology. In all four areas, Utrecht is among the top four of universities – together with Cambridge University, Imperial College in London and ETH in Zurich. On chemistry in Utrecht, CHE gives an overview on research performance, information on the staff and student body, as well as student opinions. On, you can easily see where the 66 best science departments are located, and what each universities has to offer, not only in terms of research performance, but also how students assess courses and facilities.

Check out the website of Utrecht University on their Prestige Masters in Biomolecular Sciences, as well as NanoMaterials: Chemistry and Physics.

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