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School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

About the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

The School of Biomedical and Biological Sciences is a dynamic and thriving department with a strong commitment to excellence in research and teaching. It consists of some 51 academic staff and research fellows, 50+ postgraduates, 50+ postdoctoral associates, ca. 30 technicians and 10 support staff housed in modern purpose-built research and teaching laboratories with excellent facilities. The School is built around a large central atrium, which contains the main reception desk, and functions as a social space, an area for reading and internet browsing, and a display space. The buildings are set in a conservation area with beautiful woodland, in hills overlooking the historic city of Durham.

Historical Perspective

The School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences in Durham University can trace its origins back to the formation of the Botany Department in 1932, followed by the addition of the Zoology Department in 1946.

Throughout the second half of the 20th century these departments carried out  outstanding research in plant evolution and genetics, pollution ecology (with important work on the Windscale nuclear accident), the early use of electron microscopy for the study of fungal ultrastructure, insect physiology and pest control, avian ecology, ecophysiology of algae and the early application of computers in population genetics. During this period the media spotlight fell on the university, thanks to the TV series presented by Durham botanist and environmentalist David Bellamy OBE. His programmes attracted large audiences, won him a BAFTA Richard Dimbleby Award and established a tradition here for teaching science in an engaging and entertaining way.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s the Zoology department developed an enviable reputation for research into animal physiology and animal behavior, whilst the Botany department became internationally recognized for its biochemical research into nutritionally important plant proteins and food security, often in collaboration with research institutions in the developing world. By the end of the 20th century Durham had become a centre of excellence in the molecular biology and genetic engineering techniques that form the basis for modern biology, and for studies on the impact of climate change, one of the greatest challenges of our age.

The teaching of joint Botany/Zoology honours degrees paved the way for the fusion of the two departments as Biological Sciences in 1989 and the reconstituted Department of Biological Sciences moved to a new building on the current site in 1994. The Integrative Cell Biology Laboratory, a focus for functional genomics research, bioimaging and proteomic technologies, was opened in 2002, shortly after the integration of all of these elements into a School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, reflecting the expansion into biomedical sciences, human health and disease.

The history of Biological Sciences in Durham has been one of constant growth and innovation, exploiting new technologies to enhance our understanding of the living world, exemplified by our current status as one of the best-equipped universities in the UK for the imaging of plant and animal cell ultrastructure - technologies that are essential for advances in stem cell research and developmental biology. Throughout, the integration of cutting-edge research and teaching has remained central to our ethos, ensuring that our graduates are fully equipped to make their own contribution to improving human welfare, maintaining the health of the environment, ensuring sustainable agriculture and conserving biodiversity for future generations.

RAE 2008

Contact details

School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences,
Durham University,
South Road,
Durham,
DH1 3LE
Telephone:
+44 (0)191 3341200