By Dr. Neil Robertson, School of Chemistry, the University of Edinburgh


Sustainable Chemistry touches upon so many parts of modern life and is the grand challenge theme for our UKIERI project with National Chemical Laboratory in Pune. Our joint symposium has provided the centre piece for a fantastic but hectic week here in India.

Our group of four academics from Chemistry in Edinburgh, and one from our EaStCHEM partners in St Andrews, began the week in Mumbai where we had the chance to visit some schools to give talks on sustainable polymers and solar energy to engaged and informed pupils.

On Tuesday we moved on to NCL in Pune where our well-attended joint seminar programme covered topics including solar energy, catalysis, efficient lighting and biodegradable polymers. The other main purpose of our NCL visit was to set up exchanges of PhD students through our UKIERI programme and the enthusiasm from students on both sides has been outstanding. It’s great to know that we can provide such a superb international experience for both the Indian and the UK students who take up the chance.

The links between Chemistry in Edinburgh and India go back to P.C. Ray, “the father of Indian Chemistry”, who completed his PhD in Edinburgh in 1887. It’s a pleasure to keep up this tradition and to extend it to the next generation of students.

We are now rounding off the week with a visit to the Indian Institute for Chemical Technology in Hyderabad to catch up with our ongoing collaborations in solar energy as well as make new friends and contacts. NCL and IITC represent the international leading edge of Indian chemistry, with an astonishing 1400 PhD students between them. One can only keep coming back again and again to such places and I’m already looking forward to my next chance!