Former University of Houston expert becomes co-head of Swansea’s new chemistry department

A chemist who has won awards for his work at the University of Houston has taken up his role as co-head of Swansea University’s new department of chemistry.

Professor Mareque-Rivas and Professor BottProfessor Simon Bott, originally from the UK, has published extensively in the fields of organic and inorganic structural chemistry and molecular recognition.  During his nineteen years at the University of Houston he was Undergraduate Chair of the Department of Chemistry as well as the Director of the Honors Program in the Health Professions. 

Over the past decade, Professor Bott (pictured right, above) has been the recipient of eight awards for his instructional teaching, advising and faculty member excellence. These include a "Piper Professor", only ten of which are awarded a year across the entire state of Texas, covering every discipline and every further and higher education institution.

At Swansea, Professor Bott will co-lead the new department with Professor Juan Mareque-Rivas. 

Professor Mareque-Rivas (pictured above, left) has a PhD in supramolecular chemistry from the University of Missouri-St Louis and completed his postdoctoral research in bioinorganic/bioorganic chemistry at MIT.  He has held posts at the EastCHEM School of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, the School of Engineering at the University of Aberdeen, and The Centre for Cooperative Research in Biomaterials (CIC biomaGUNE) where he continues to be Ikerbasque Research Professor and Group Leader of the Theranostic Nanomedicine Laboratory.

New chemistry BSc and MChem programmes have been established at Swansea, focusing on teaching excellence, student experience and employability. 

Based in the College of Science, the programmes will have strong links to engineering and medicine. They will provide students with the breadth of knowledge required to practise chemistry professionally, teaching them laboratory skills and giving them the depth to enable them to specialise in particular areas.

Research in the new department will cover four themes: energy; health; new and advanced molecules and materials; and water and the environment.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard B Davies described the reintroduction of chemistry as “a sign of Swansea’s progress, ambition and confidence”, in the wake of the University breaking into the top 25 in the UK for research.

Professor Simon Bott said: "I am very excited to be able to move home back to the UK to Swansea.  My family and I loved Houston and the University of Houston, and really didn't plan to leave.  However, the opportunity to work to create a new department and curriculum and to implement 21st century teaching strategies at a major institution like Swansea was just too much to ignore.   

Even with that, I didn't fully realise until I arrived just how much the existing strengths of the University in medicine, engineering and the other departments in the College of Science would increase our potential as a chemistry department in research and teaching.  I look forward with my colleagues to making Swansea chemistry a strength - in itself and in collaboration across the two campuses."

Professor Matt Jones, Head of the College of Science at Swansea University said: “Chemistry will embody the Swansea way of doing science - a way that is truly high quality, creative and connected with our students at the heart of all we do. Across the University we have facilities and passionate teachers who will connect our budding chemists with the worlds of medicine, engineering, sustainable living, computation and data science and more". 

Professor Bott’s Texas connections will prove invaluable as Swansea University has a strategic partnership with several universities across the state, including the University of Houston.   This partnership has generated research collaborations, and led to flourishing student and staff exchange schemes.

Chemistry degrees were withdrawn at Swansea University in 2004, at a time when science and technology subjects had fallen in popularity. The new degrees are being introduced at a time when the demand for chemistry degrees is increasing: with undergraduate enrolment in the subject up 4% nationally in the last two years.

The College of Science at Swansea, which will be the home for chemistry, is also growing rapidly: with undergraduate applications rising 15% overall in 2015/16 on top of a 20% increase in 2014/15.