History

   The Department of Physical Chemistry, along with three other chemistry departments, was established in 1949, when the Faculty of Sciences became a separate entity within the University. In the past decades, while constantly upholding the dominant role of classical physical chemistry – in terms of education, research, personnel and infrastructure – it was divided or merged into various corresponding units. Currently the department operates again as an distinct department withing the Institute of Chemistry. The organizational transformations are outlined in the following table.

 

Period Physical chemistry Colloid chemistry Radiochemistry
1949–1968
Department of Physical Chemistry
1968–1972
Department of Physical Chemistry Isotope Laboratory
1972–1985
Dept. of Phys. Chem. Isotope Laboratory (incl. Colloid chemistry)
1985–1989
Dept. of Phys. Chem. Dept. of Colloid Chem. Isotope Laboratory
1989–2004
Dept. of Phys. Chem. Dept. of Colloid Chem. Dept. of Isotope Application
2004-2016
Dept. of Phys. Chem.

Dept. of Colloid and Environmental Chemistry

(incl. Lajos Imre Isotope Laboratory)

2016–
Department of Physical Chemistry

 

Heads of the units

   Department of Physical Chemistry: Lajos Imre (1950–1968). Mihály Beck (1968–1990), György Bazsa (1990–1998), Ferenc Joó (1998–2011), Vilmos Gáspár (2011–2016), István Fábián (2016–2018), Gyula Tircsó (2018–)

   Department of Colloid Chemistry / Department of Colloid and Environmental Chemistry: István Mádi (1972–1985), Pál Joó (1986–1997), János Borbély (1997–2005), István Bányai (2005–2016)

   Isotope Laboratory / Department of Isotope Applications: Lajos Imre (1968–1971), Béla Tóth (1971-1972), István Mádi (1972–1985), Sándor Daróczy (1985–1995), Ernő Brücher (1996–97), József Környei (1997) –1998), József Kónya (1999–2002), György Bazsa (2002–2004)

   The memory of Professor Lajos Imre is preserved on a marble plaque on the 2nd floor of the D-wing, that of Professor Mihály Beck in the foyer of the building.

Education

   The main educational duty of the Department was to give lectures, to lead seminars and laboratory exercises in physical chemistry, covering the subjects of thermodynamics, reaction kinetics, electrochemistry, material structure. In parallel, the teaching of colloid chemistry and radiochemistry (nuclear chemistry) for chemistry students (BSc in Chemistry, BSc in Chemical Engineering, MSc in Chemistry, MSc in Chemical Engineering, MSc in Chemistry teaching) has been and is a continuing task. In addition, the Department contributes to the training and education of physicists, biologists, biology teachers, environmental sciences, bioengineers, pharmacists, and medical diagnostics laboratory assistants, as well as of environmental chemistry and computer science students.
   Faculty members regularly offer elective and specialization courses, and supervise student research, dissertation and thesis writing. Students of the Department have regularly been winning university and national competitions and awards for decades.
   Faculty members authored and published a string of paperback lecture notes, collections of chemical calculations, glossaries, laboratory guidelines – many still in use today.

  • Faculty of the Department translated the worldwide used textbook P. W. Atkins: Physical chemistry to Hungarian. The Hungarian translation is extensively used in Hungarian higher education (P. W. Atkins: Fizikai kémia I-II-III; National Textbook Publisher, Budapest, 2002).
  • György Póta: Fizikai kémia gyógyszerész hallgatóknak (Physical chemistry for pharmacology students) university note was published in six editions (University Publishing House, Debrecen, 1998–2008).
  • Two textbooks serve the study of radiochemistry: József Kónya, Noémi M. Nagy: Izotópia (Isotopy I and II, University of Debrecen, 2007, 2008; Jozsef Konya and Noemi Nagy: Nuclear and Radiochemistry, Elsevier 1st ed. 2014, 2nd ed. 2018.
  • György Póta helped chemistry students studying mathematical and computer sciences by authoring the textbook Matematikai feladatok kémia szakos hallgatóknak (Mathematical Problems for Chemistry Students), Elsevier, 2006.

   In recent decades, several of the Department’s courses were taught in English-language. (The list of courses announced in a semester can be found on www.elearning.unideb.hu, and on this website of the Department.)

Research

   The research activity of the Department, as was the general practice in Hungary then, was initially exclusively determined by the professional profile and interest of the incumbent head of the department, however, this later shifted toward a more collective decision-making,
   The focus of the research activities in the first two decades of the Department’s history under the direction of Lajos Imre was the thermodynamic and kinetic study of processes occurring at the interface of solutions and solids. The aim of this research was how to extract recoverable and recyclable decomposition isotopes from the spent fuel of nuclear reactors. These researches have been conducted from 1960 in the special isotope laboratory building, which was later organizationally detached from the Department.
   In 1968 the leadership of the Department was taken over by Professor Mihály Beck who switched to Debrecen from the University of Szeged. The focus of the research turned to the equilibria and catalytic effects in coordination chemical compounds, and of the related ligands (e.g. nitric oxide). Later, gradually focus shifted to the kinetics and mechanisms of such reactions, especially non-equilibrium processes, non-linear dynamic systems (autocatalysis–autoinhibition, Landolt-reactions, overshoot–undershoot, periodic processes, oligo-oscillations, pH-oscillations, reaction fronts, chemical waves, natural and regulated chaos, etc.). Afterwards, research interest expanded to the modelling of their dynamic behavior. Internationally recognized results were achieved in the study of oscillation reactions, as well as in the field of homogeneous catalysis of solution phase hydrogenation, carbon dioxide activation and chemical storage of hydrogen. Topics of prebiotic chemistry, fullerene chemistry, microwave reaction activation, polymers produced by frontal polymerization, polymer composites were studied too. The production and doping of tungsten metal filaments and its oxides formed significant part of the research. Dynamic NMR spectroscopy also found novel applications in the study of colloidal systems.
   In 1995, under the leadership of Professor Ferenc Joó, the MTA-KLTE (later MTA-DE) Homogeneous Catalysis Research Group was established. From 2012, the group continued its activities as the MTA-DE Homogeneous Catalysis and Reaction Mechanisms Research Group, signaling the expansion of the research area. From then on, some members of the research group joined to the reaction kinetics group of the Department of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry. Since 2017, two faculty members of the MTA-DE Redox and Homogeneous Catalytic Reactions Research Group, founded under the leadership of Professor István Fábián, have been conducting research in the field of aqueous organometallic catalysis. Members of the research groups of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences always played important role in the implementation of the educational tasks of the Department.
   The separate isotope laboratory was built in 1960. In 1968 its staff left the Department and established an independent organizational unit, which from 1972 accommodated the colloid chemistry group, led by Associate Professor István Mádi. In 1985, the Colloid Chemistry group became independent, and in 1989 formed the Department of Colloid Chemistry. Its research profile was the physical chemistry of the electrode surfaces and the study of diffusion in non-homogeneous systems.
   In 1989, the Isotope Laboratory was reorganized as the Department of Isotope Applications, when a few physicists joined the Laboratory. During this period the chemists there studied the interfacial processes of natural systems (rocks, soils). In 2001, the physicist members were transferred to the Department of Environmental Physics, and the remaining faculty joined the Department of Colloid and Environmental Chemistry. In this framework, the main research topics were the study of transport properties, adsorption and ion exchange phenomena in environmental systems, mainly from the point of view of agriculture and radioactive waste management. Closely related to these was the research on safety analysis of the radioactive waste repository built in Bátaapáti – for about a decade and a half. Later, the structural study of synthetic and biological macromolecules, polyelectrolytes, the investigation of dendrimer-type compounds in aqueous solution, exploration of gels, emulsions, porous materials, the application of solid and liquid NMR to study colloids formed and form today the main line of research. Within the Department, the aim of the recent research of the staff of the Lajos Imre Isotope Laboratory is to fix polluting anions and anionic radionuclides applied at the chemical modification of rocks.

Doctoral (PhD) training

   Since its establishment in 1993, the faculty of the Department, some as core members, many as supervisors and lecturers participate in the activities of the Doctoral School of Chemistry. From 1997 to 2009, the head of the Doctoral School was Ferenc Joó, and from 2010 to 2016, Vilmos Gáspár. Ferenc Joó was the head of the K/1 Reaction Kinetics and Catalysis program since 1995. In the last 25 years, more than thirty chemists affiliated with our Departments graduated with a PhD degree.

Applied research

   Although mainly basic research has been and is conducted in the Department, external subcontracts often resulted in the development of procedures, patents, licenses that are applied in industry, agriculture and healthcare. For example: trace elements supply of the soil, Suntest UV dosimeter, tungsten filament doping, hydrogen storage, surface treatment of catheters, disposal of arsenic iron mud. Radioactive standards for domestic and international orders have been developed and produced in the Isotope Laboratory for decades.

University and professional public activities

   Mihály Beck was vice and temporary rector, Ferenc Joó was vice rector, György Bazsa was vice-rector and then rector of Kossuth University. Mihály Beck was vice-dean, György Bazsa was dean of the Faculty of Sciences of Kossuth University.
   Our colleagues regularly participated as active members, in several cases as heads of organizations in Hungarian scientific life: the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Debrecen Academic Committee, the Scientific Qualification Committee, the Association of Hungarian Chemists, the Society for Scientific Dissemination, etc.
   Mihály Beck and later Ferenc Joó were elected for two cycles as chairs of the Section of Chemical Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
   Some colleagues were and are editorial board members of domestic and foreign scientific journals (e.g. Journal of Coordination Chemistry, Inorganica Chimica Acta, Catalysis Communications, Reaction Kinetics and Catalysis Letters, Acta Chimica Hungarica, Hungarian Chemical Journal, Hungarian Chemists' Journal, etc.).

International relations

   In the first two decades, predominantly shorter study trips, scientific consultations and exchanges of educational experience were possible in the framework of official university agreements (e.g. Lomonosov State University Moscow, Shevchenko University Kiev, Isotope Institute Prague, Technical College Dresden, Rostock University, etc.). Mihály Beck, as new head of the Department brought a radical change in this field: foreign lecturers and researchers on a scholarship joined the Department regularly; many faculty members of the Department took part in shorter, but often longer, half, one or two-year study trips to western countries (see bottom of the page). Our active participation in international and domestic conferences became a regular practice and is still continues today. Hundreds of papers have been published by our colleagues as a result of international collaborations.
   The Department organized three successful international conferences

  • 3rd Conference on Coordination Chemistry, Debrecen, 1970
  • International Conference on Dynamics of Exotic Phenomena in Chemistry, Hajdúszoboszló, 1989
  • NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Aqueous Organometallic Chemistry and Catalysis, Debrecen, 1994

   In 1989, the Department played an active role in the organization of the 22nd International Conference on Coordination Chemistry (ICCC), Budapest, where the opening lecture was given by Professor Mihály Beck.
   In the field of catalysis, the Department participated in 5 COST, 1 MTA–NSF (USA) and 2 MTA–CSIC (Spain) cooperation programs, and one EU FP6 project. The oscillation chemistry research was supported by the OTKA–NSF, ESF REACTOR, ESF FUNCDYN, MTA–BRITISH COUNCIL, HUNGARIAN–ROMANIAN TÉT collaborations.
   There was a fruitful relationship between the Department of Inorganic Chemistry of the Royal University of Technology in Stockholm (KTH) and our Institute of Chemistry. Faculty members of the Department were also involved in the establishment and successful operation of the “dynamic NMR school” in Stockholm for two decades.
   The Department is a founding member of the European Network on Nuclear and Radiochemistry Education and Training.
   At the initiative of the Department, two excellent chemists were inaugurated as honoris causa doctor of the University: Henry Taube, Nobel Prize-winning professor at Stanford University (1988), and Dean Sharry, Professor at the University of Texas at Dallas and Professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas (2019).

Financial background

   The basic funds of operation were and are provided by the national budget, but scientific, educational and infrastructural grants have an increasing weight in the budget. The faculty of the Department successfully applied for numerous research grants, often in cooperation with domestic and foreign partners.

Infrastructure

   When the Department was founded, its location was on 2nd floor of the university main building’s east wing, where faculty offices, research and student laboratories, lecture hall, the departmental library, administration office were in one place. The mechanical workshop, located in the basement, was always a great help in the research work.
   By 1960, the separate building of the Isotope Laboratory was completed in a secluded area of the University Botanical Garden. Here radiochemical research and student laboratories were installed. The building was in use until 2010 when it was demolished. (Today the Agora Science Experience Center is on its place.)
   The new chemistry building was completed in 1969. The research laboratories and lecturers’ offices occupy the 6th floor of the D wing. The physical-chemistry student laboratories are on the 1st floor, the colloid chemistry student labs, the colloid chemistry and radiochemistry research and student laboratories are on the 2nd floor. The mechanical, electronic and glass workshops, until their closure in 2010, were located on the ground floor. The excellent and often creative work of László Maglóczki (technician), András Berki (electronic specialist), and Lajos Molnár (glass technician) contributed to the work of the Department enormously. The Department's modest and slowly expanding instrumentation, when not always up-to-date, but well-functioning, include a good amount of gear, from simple ionization chamber trough an automatic electrolysis machine to a quick-recording spectrophotometer, many were constructed in our workshops. The larger and sometimes state-of-the-art equipment (NMR, MS, X-ray crystallography) used by the faculty, operate on an institutional, faculty or university level.
   In the new building a joint chemical library was established by merging the departmental libraries. In 2011, it moved to the new building of the University and National Library of the University of Debrecen (DEENK), located in our immediate vicinity on the campus.

Scientific titles and degrees

The members of the Department – in accordance with regulations and procedures valid at the time – accomplished scientific titles, resp. degrees. (Only those are listed, who worked in the Department for several years, with the highest accomplishment, respectively.)

  • Imre Lajos was awarded the degree of Doctor of Chemical Sciences in 1955 in a simplified procedure.
  • Dr. univ. title / degree (until 1995): Gyula Fábry, József Nagy, József Csongor, Tamás Bereznai, Józsefné Csongor Éva Porzsolt, András Bolyós, Zoltán Váradi, Ildikó Szilassy, Jolán Ling, István Országh, Zsuzsa Bódi, Márta Berka, István Lengyel.
  • Candidate of Chemical Science (until 1995): István Mádi, Tibor Varró, László Dózsa, János Borbély, Zoltán Tóth, György Póta; Liliana Ilcseva (Bulgarian), Mohamed El-Defrawy (Egyptian), Levente Nádasdi (Hungarian) aspirants.
  • PhD university doctoral degree (since 1995): Attila Bényei, István Nagy, Károly Antal, Péter Pénzeli, Gábor Papp, Henrietta Győrváriné Horváth, Mihály Purgel, Antal Udvardy, Csilla Czégéni, Mónika Kéri, Zoltán Nagy, István Kiss, Éva Csajbók, Levente Novák, Natália Marozsán, Virág Kiss, Enikő Tóth-Molnár, Zoltán Garda, Réka Gombos, Mária Eszter Kovács.
  • Dr. habil. title: Tibor Szalay, József Kónya, József Környei, Vilmos Gáspár, Pál Joó, Gyula Rábai, István Nagy, István Bányai, János Borbély, Márta Berka, Attila Bényei, Katalin Ősz, Gábor Papp, Henrietta Horváth.
  • Doctor of Chemical Science (DSc, until 1996): György Bazsa, Tibor Szalay, József Kónya.
  • Doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (DSC, after 1996): Gyula Rábai, Vilmos Gáspár, Pál Joó, István Bányai, Noémi M. Nagy, Ágnes Kathó.
  • Full member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences: Mihály Beck, Ferenc Joó.

Scientific/academic and government awards

   In the seven decades, the faculty of the Department received more than a hundred honors, awards, recognitions, and diplomas. Here we only mention government-level, high academic and international recognitions:

  • State Award II. degree: Lajos Imre, 1970
  • State Award: Mihály Beck, 1985
  • Széchenyi Prize: Ferenc Joó, 1998
  • Award of Hungarian Academy of Sciences: Lajos Imre, 1968
  • Gold Medal of Hungarian Academy of Sciences: Mihály Beck, 2016
  • External member of the Finnish Academy of Sciences: Mihály Beck, 1984
  • Gamboa–Winkler Prize of the Spanish Royal Chemical Society: Ferenc Joó, 2015
  • Doctor honoris causa title: Mihály Beck (KLTE, 1999; University of Szeged, 2006); György Bazsa (Kiev National Shevchenko University, 1999)
  • Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, Middle Cross: György Bazsa, 2003
  • Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, Silver Cross: Vilmos Gáspár, 2003
  • Hungarian Order of Merit, Officer's Cross: Gyula Rábai, 2014
  • Hungarian Order of Merit, Golden Cross: Attila Bényei, 2015
  • Hungarian Order of Merit, Commander’s Cross: Ferenc Joó, 2020
  • Hungarian Order of Merit, Khigth’s Cross: Tircsó Gyula, 2020

The departmental community

   From the very beginning, the Department has established a good professional and collegial community, which manifested itself in the educational-research collaborations, the authoring of joint education notes and scientific publications, as well as in daily coffee-breaks or joint spring meetings, outdoor cooking, excursions. Our research and doctoral students were always active participants. The system of weekly departmental seminars introduced by Professor Beck became an important basis for the community spirit in all respects. It primarily served the mutual information of the staff about our teaching and research work and its results. In many cases, foreign guests gave lectures, which reinforced our multifaceted domestic and international contacts and awareness.
   The present website of the Department, based on the newly established university system, symbolically opens a new chapter of the history of the Department.  In the 1990s, many members of a successful generation – professors, associate professors, senior researchers– retired and handed over the traditions to a new generation, including Gyula Tircsó, the present chair of the Department. The new generation already carries on the torch. The Department’s ambition is to preserve the established values, to perform the new tasks successfully with the aim that that Department of Physical Chemistry of the University of Debrecen continues to thrive both in training and in internationally recognized research.

Sources

   More information about our employees can be read here on this Department's website, on their own website, as well as on www.mta.hu, https://doktori.hu/ and wikipedia websites.

Written by György Bazsa.

Longer study trips abroad (scholarship) of the Department’s members

  • Imre Lajos: Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry, Berlin - O. Hahn
  • Mihály Beck: University of Copenhagen - J. Bjerrum; Fulbright Scholarship, USA
  • István Bányai: Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm - J. Glaser
  • György Bazsa: Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, USA - I. R. Epstein
  • Attila Bényei: University of Ottawa, Ottawa - H. Alper; Univ. St. Andrews - P. Lightfoot
  • András Bolyós: Universite du Paris-Sud, Paris - H. Ouguenoune
  • Éva Csajbók: Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands - J. Peters
  • Éva Csongorné Porzsolt: University of Copenhagen - J. Bjerrum
  • László Dózsa: Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA - H. Taube
  • Vilmos Gáspár: West Virginia University, Morgantown, VW, USA - K. Showalter
  • Henrietta Horváth: University of Zaragoza - E. Sola; EPFL, Lausanne - G. Laurenczy
  • Ferenc Joó: University of Ottawa, Canada - H. Alper; Hebrew University, Jerusalem (Lady Davis Visiting Professor) - J. Blum; University of Zaragoza (IBERDROLA Visiting Professor) - L. A. Oro
  • Pál Joó: Loyola University, Chicago, IL, USA - A. Fitch; University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA - J. Chambers
  • Ágnes Kathó: Hebrew University, Jerusalem - J. Blum; University of Zaragoza - M. A. Estereulas
  • Ferenc Kálmán - University of Texas at Dallas, TX, USA - D. Sherry; University of Turin (MBC) - S. Aime; CBM (CNRS), Orleans, France - É. Tóth
  • István Lengyel: Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, USA - I. R. Epstein
  • István Nagy: Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA - J. Pojman; University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS, USA - J. Pojman
  • Levente Nádasdi: EPFL, Lausanne - G. Laurenczy
  • István Országh: University of Akron, Akron, OH, USA - J. Kennedy
  • Gábor Papp: EPFL, Lausanne - G. Laurenczy
  • György Póta: University of Swansea, Wales - G. Stedman
  • Gyula Rábai: Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, US A - I. R. Epstein, National Institute of Natural Sciences, Okazaki; Hiroshima University, Hiroshima
  • Gyula Tircsó - University of Texas at Dallas, TX, USA - D. Sherry; CBM (CNRS), Orleans, France - É. Tóth

Updated: 2021.04.20.


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