About the Department
The present Departmental structure represents the merger of a number of Departments including those of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Genetics each of which has a long and distinguished record of research and teaching. Important events in the Department's history include the association with the work of Hans Krebs who was awarded the Nobel prize for his discovery in Sheffield of the tricarboxylic acid cycle.
Building and Facilities
The Department is situated in Firth Court, the original 1905 University building. We therefore have a prime position within the University, adjacent to the Students’ Union and Information Commons (library), and about 20 minutes’ walk from the centre of Sheffield and from the Halls. The Department has recently completed a major refurbishment programme following successful bids for funding totalling over £39 million. These funds have enabled the complete reconstruction of all our laboratory space to the highest standards providing approximately 6000 square metres of seamless laboratory accommodation, including the laboratories housing state-of-the-art facilities and advanced instrumentation in areas such as structural biology, spectroscopy, genomics and cell biology. These new laboratories provide exciting opportunities to maximise the interactions between the diverse disciplines of structural, molecular and cellular biology.
The Department maintains a significant programme of research-led teaching, with approximately 100 students per year enrolled. With greater than 85% of our students moving on to either higher degrees or to subject-related employment in industry, our degree programmes deliver a significant number of highly qualified individuals to the UK science base.
Our teaching was assessed in November 1999 by the Quality Assurance Agency, and received 24 out of 24. This is a very rare accolade, and indicates an outstanding quality of teaching. It is worth noting that our sister Departments, Animal and Plant Sciences, and Biomedical Sciences, also received 24, showing excellence across all of Biology in Sheffield.
The Department has a distinguished tradition of research, going back to Hans Krebs and more recently including Rod Quayle FRS, a founder of microbial physiology and developer of bacterially derived protein for food; John Guest FRS, a pioneer of bacterial genetics in E. coli; and Pauline Harrison who discovered the structure of the iron storage protein ferritin. In the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise we were awarded the top grade of 5*. Similarly both our sister Departments of Animal and Plant Science and of Biomedical Sciences were also awarded the 5* rating illustrating the strength of the Life Sciences research base at the University. In the 2008 RAE we were ranked in 3rd place in the UK (Source: Times Higher Education). We have a large research school, with over 110 research students (divided almost equally between UK and overseas) and 30 postdoctoral researchers, and we publish about 100 research papers per annum. Staff and postdocs in the department come from 13 different countries, and PhD students from 14 different countries, making a lively international environment. Taken together with our undergraduate intake (21 countries) we represent 35 different countries.
The research activity is divided into four main areas: Biochemistry and Genomics, Cell Biology and Genetics, Molecular Microbiology and Structural Biology. In 2008 the Academic Leadership for both teaching and research in each of these research areas, was conferred upon Prof Neil Hunter (Krebs Chair in Biochemistry), Prof Peter Sudbery (Roper Chair in Genetics), Prof David Rice (Harrison Chair in Structural Biology and Biophysics), Prof Jon Waltho (Gibson Chair in Biophysics) to complement the existing West Riding Chair in Microbiology currently held by Prof Robert Poole. Departmental Research each is underpinned by significant levels of Research Council and Charity support, with over £25M of external funding awarded during the last 5 years, with the current value of active grants being greater than £16M. In particular over the last 5 years the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology has been one of the three highest funded Departments in the UK from BBSRC, one of the major government Research Councils that fund biological research. A hallmark of the Department is its collaborative ethos and more than half of our grants and half of the research papers result from collaboration with scientists from other countries.
[Left] the Department's research facilities occupy most of the Firth Court building, seen here from the South-East, looking towards Broomhill and Crookes where many students live. Completed in 1905, the traditional redbrick exterior gives little hint of the state-of-the-art facilities within
[Right] the main entrance to the Department is in the South Wing of Firth Court. Assistance may be obtained from the Porters' Lodge (to the left inside the entrance) or the Departmental General Office (Room C2, to the right inside the entrance)