New department, new Head of Department
2 March 2018
Professor Paul Upchurch
I will be taking over as Head of Department from Prof Lars Stixrude in July. While Lars will remain in charge during the next few months, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for all his efforts on behalf of this department. In particular, Lars and John Bowles (with the support of our Space Committee) have done a fantastic job of guiding this department through the difficult process of building renovation. Some of us moved into the finished west wing of the Kathleen Lonsdale Building last year, but it was not until January this year that the east wing was finished and we essentially came together as a united department in a single building. The east wing is particularly important to us because it contains our new teaching labs, with a combined capacity of around 90 people.
I think staff and students alike agreed that it is great to have the building work and transfer of personnel and equipment finally over now so that we can get the full benefit of all of our new facilities. We now have state-of-the-art teaching and laboratory facilities, and a number of communal hub spaces dedicated to different student cohorts. It is particularly encouraging to see the way students and staff are using the new hub spaces, which seem to be filled with lively conversations about the Earth sciences every time I passed through them.
Of course, we want to impose a distinctive Earth Sciences feel to the building, and now that the basic infrastructure is finished, we can think about decoration. Only in the last few days, a number of ‘supergraphics’ have gone up on our walls, showing spectacular Earth sciences related images such as students and staff carrying out fieldwork against the backdrop of dramatic landscapes, weird and beautiful highly magnified images of cross-sections through dinosaur bones, and microfossils blown up to the size of dinner plates. As a vertebrate palaeontologist, particularly close to my heart is the impending arrival of our dinosaur skeleton. As I write, a crate containing a cast of the 2.7 m long –carnivorous Deinonychus is en route from Canada. The plan is to display this in our lobby, with the creature staring ominously at visitors as they come in through the front door! If all goes according to plan, everything will be ready for the official opening of the department in early April, which will be presided over by Sir David Attenborough.
Lastly, we have recently advertised for two new lectureships, with several other new posts also in the pipeline for later this year or in 2019. We are all looking forward to welcoming new staff into the department, supporting our current strengths and perhaps branching out into some new areas. So, all in all, this is a very exciting time to be a member of the Department of Earth Sciences, UCL.