ROUND the world yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur will officially open part of the University of York's multi-million pound new chemistry facilities.

New undergraduate teaching laboratories and research facilities at the university's green chemistry centre of excellence will be officially opened today (Friday 5 September).

Dame Ellen will open the green chemistry centre and new teaching labs will be opened by the first female president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Prof Lesley Yellowlees, of Edinburgh University and by Prof Sir John Holman, senior education advisor at the Wellcome Trust, who will also present a demonstration lecture on "teaching science the Practical Way".

The project is part of a £29 million phased redevelopment of the university’s chemistry department. The event also coincides with the launch of the Chemistry 50 Fund, a new campaign to help to develop the next generation of scientists to find solutions to some of the global challenges facing society.

Construction on the new £10 million buildings began in 2012 and was part-financed by a £1.8 million investment from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the 2007-13 Yorkshire and The Humber ERDF Programme.

Prof Richard Taylor, head of Chemistry at York, said: “This exciting new development gives us more scope to undertake a wide range of practical chemistry with supporting instrumentation, office and support areas providing outstanding professional-standard training facilities for the scientists of tomorrow.

“As our green chemistry centre of excellence moves into new research facilities we will continue to be a world leading research centre, promoting the development and implementation of green and sustainable chemistry and related technologies into new products and processes. With a renewed focus on wider participation and collaboration we can now provide a modern research laboratory to promote greater engagement with industrial partners.”

Chemistry graduate, Dr Anthony Wild, has been a major supporter of the department’s investment into laboratory and teaching space. He will initiate a matching challenge to help encourage fellow alumni to support the York Chemistry 50 Fund.

Between September 2014 and December 2015 graduates will be asked to support the appeal and all donations will be matched £1 for £1. Gifts over £500 will be matched £2 for every £1 given.

Director of development and alumni relations, Mary Haworth, said: “Funding for research students particularly at Masters level is a challenge in itself and many talented students are not able to undertake postgraduate study at York without additional financial support.

“The fund will support Masters, PhD and Post-doc students as well as encouraging undergraduates considering research careers through the Department’s innovative Summer Vacation Bursary programme.”

The official opening will conclude with a dinner hosted by the University of York’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof Koen Lamberts.