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A Century of

Nanjing University is marking 100 years of scientific research at the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering by celebrating the school’s legacy and future

By Karen Emslie, 
C&EN BrandLab Contributing Writer

The School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Nanjing University celebrates 100 years of excellence in science.
Credit : Nanjing University

T he School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering (SCCE) at Nanjing University (NJU) is one of China’s oldest chemistry departments. Established in 1920, the SCCE has been home to scientists who, over the past century, have left a legacy of cutting-edge research. The school’s researchers are tackling scientific challenges with far-reaching and long-term impact. Today, the SCCE is positioned as a global center of excellence in chemistry. Its academics, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers contribute innovative ideas to chemistry across a spectrum of disciplines, including synthetic chemistry, analytical chemistry, green chemical engineering, chemical biology, and theoretical and computational chemistry. The SCCE, now the largest of NJU’s 31 schools, comprises 58,000 m2 of teaching space and laboratories on the university’s Xianlin campus.

Interdisciplinary research and international partnerships are essential to SCCE’s current success and future ambition. Initiatives include exchanges and collaborations with other high-profile universities, including the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Sydney; Hokkaido University; and the University of São Paulo. SCCE’s global aspirations build on a well-established tradition of innovation within China.

A trajectory of progress

In 1952, two historic chemistry departments, at Nanjing University (established 1920) and the University of Nanking (established 1930), merged to form the chemistry department at Nanjing University. The modern name, the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering (SCCE), was formally adopted in 1993. The Jiangsu Provincial Key Laboratory of Advanced Organic Materials is now part of the SCCE. Two of China’s State Key Laboratories (SKL) and two Key Laboratories of Ministry of Education (KL-MOE) are also housed in the SCCE. They are:

The faculty of 116 full professors and 48 associate professors is led by Dean Shuhua Li, an expert in quantum and computational chemistry, and professor Chengjian Zhu, whose group is engaged in discovering the sustainable, effective, and highly stereoselective catalytic methodology to construct intricate molecular architectures. Thirty-nine academicians at the renowned Chinese Academy of Sciences were educated at SCCE, and 31 have served as faculty. Among these are 20 academicians who were both SCCE students and teachers.

A commitment to rigorous scholarship, creative thinking, and the practical applications of original research are hallmarks of the SCCE’s dynamic teaching environment. Chinese and international students and promising young researchers work alongside established faculty in tackling some of the 21st century’s most challenging areas of chemistry.

Recent breakthroughs by teams at the SCCE include work on investigations into the chemical biology of metals and platinum-based drugs for treating cancer, led by Zijian Guo; the design of measuring tools for single-cell electrochemistry analysis, led by Hong-Yuan Chen; and the development of micro-interface intensified reaction technology, led by Zhibing Zhang. The advanced research at the SCCE supports industrial invention. Partnerships with companies around the world ensure that the SCCE contributes to addressing global challenges—from sustainable energy innovation to drug development.

The SCCE’s success is reflected in its performance in rankings of chemistry departments: No. 4 in the Nature Index Ranking, No. 20 in the U.S. News’ Best Global Universities, and No. 25 in Academic Ranking of World Universities.

The SCCE’s centennial marks a time to reflect on the school’s legacy but also to contemplate future endeavors, which will have lasting global impact. The faculty and students of 2020 will lead the department into a new century of excellence in chemistry—one that looks set to be defined by world-class innovation and intellectual dynamism.

To explore more of the important research that has taken place at the SCCE, please see this sponsored virtual collection at the Journal of the American Chemical Society.


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