Chemistry is an interdisciplinary field of study; there is a strong, synergistic relationship between this field and all areas of natural sciences, as well as large areas of medicine and engineering. When it comes to the aforementioned theoretical and applied sciences, a sufficient knowledge of chemistry and the ability to utilise chemical procedures and methods are essential. Chemistry played a vital role in bringing about and maintaining the human life form as we know it today.
Chemistry-related education has a history of several hundred years in Debrecen, just like the university itself does. At the Debreceni Református Kollégium (Debrecen University of the Reformed Church), which was founded in 1538, and which is generally seen as the predecessor of the University of Debrecen, there was an entire department dedicated to chemistry as early as 1815. After the foundation of the University of Debrecen (1913), chemical studies were distributed between the faculty of humanities and that of medical studies. The first modern unit dedicated to chemistry (the Department of Organic Chemistry) was established within the latter of the two; this unit, together with the Department of Physical Chemistry and the Department of Inorganic and Analytic Chemistry (both of which were established after the foundation of the Faculty of Natural Sciences in 1949), became the foundation stone of chemistry-related education and research in Debrecen, an area that is in rapid progress to this day.
Today, the Institute of Chemistry of University of Debrecen (ICUD) is the largest educational and research unit within the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Debrecen. The ICUD was founded in 2006, uniting the Department of Applied Chemistry and Colloidal and Nature Chemistry and the Chemical Methodology unit, as well as the three departments mentioned above. In order to provide a stronger industrial basis for the educational and research process, in 2008, the External Department of Medicine was established in collaboration with TEVA; in 2009, the External Department of Petrochemistry and Polymer Technology was founded in collaboration with the Tiszai Vegyipari Kombinát (Tisza Chemical Combinate), later renamed MOL Petrolkémia (MOL Petrochemistry). Resulting from structural changes introduced in 2016, the Institute of Chemistry now consists of 4 departments (the Department of Applied Chemistry, the Department of Physical Chemistry, the Department of Organic Chemistry and the Department of Inorganic and Analytic Chemistry), 2 external departments (the External Department of Medicine and the External Department of Petrochemistry and Polymer Technology) and the Chemical Methodology unit.
The main task of the ICUD is the organising of chemical education and research. In addition to this, the Institute also engages in chemistry-related external research and sometimes even informative-educational activities. These tasks are carried out by 55 full-time lecturers, 10-15 researchers, 30-35 PhD students and 26 chemical technicians. The Institute unites and organises the activities of the aforementioned departments, helps its research and service groups carry out their tasks, manages its portion of the university’s budget and coordinates its personnel and workforce.
The main focus of the Institute’s educational activity is the tuition of chemists, chemical engineers and chemistry teachers. In the case of chemists and chemical engineers, the Institute provides BSc and MSc programs, while the training program of teachers is undivided. At the Graduate School in Chemistry, the best students partake in PhD programs, partly in the form of courses, but mainly via research projects that they conduct on their own. These courses and projects are carried out in the framework of four doctoral programs. Beside these activities, the Institute also takes part in the teaching programs of the Department of Natural Sciences (such as biology, bioengineering and environmental science) and other departments of the university (mainly pharmaceutics, medical diagnostic analytics), contributing to the education of approximately 900 students.
The ICUD is one of the biggest research centres in Hungary; in several of its research groups, various research methods have been devised, lots of which have gained the Institute international acknowledgement. In Hungary, several of these methods are used solely or most intensely at the University of Debrecen (such as synthetic carbohydrate and antibiotics-related chemical studies, spectroscopic and calculation-based determination of the spatial structure of chemical complexes and the study of substances and procedures used in magnetic resonance-based imaging, glycoenzymes, metal complexes of medical importance, organometallic catalysis in an aqueous medium, reaction kinetic processes occurring in complex systems). The ICUD’s research potential is further signalled by the fact that 3 people working at the Institute are also members of the MTA (Hungarian Academy of Sciences); 13 people with an MTA doctoral status (and 6 people with an emeritus status), as well as 38 people with a PhD (including PhD candidates) also work at the ICUD. All the current research projects are co-operative in nature, and are being carried out not only within the Institute itself, but also in collaboration with Hungarian and international academic and industrial partners.
The Institute’s equipment and infrastructure needed for its research projects include minor and medium instruments, instruments and other equipment within the laboratories, as well as the joint-reservation instrument park (NMR, MS, X-ray diffraction, chromatographic and chiroptical laboratories), which is also accessible to other departments and units of the university, as well as external users. 11 Registrated Research Infarstructures operate within the Institute, and provide various services for the KFI sphere. Research projects requiring large computation are also made possible, thanks to the ICUD’s access to the supercomputer operating in Debrecen. This infrastructure also contributes to the Institute’s educational activities. On our website, one can find the detailed presentation of the different units of the Institute, its personnel and fields of activity. It also helps current and potential university students, as well as those interested in chemistry, to find information related to the Institute. If visitors should have any further questions, the ICUD’s management will be happy to answer them.
Dr. Katalin Várnagy
Head of Institute