Ed Constable: A successful researcher becomes vice-rector of the University of Basel

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Professor Edwin (Ed) Constable, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Basel and Project leader and Member of the Management Board within the SNI, was awarded one of the prestigious ERC grants in November 2010. In addition, Constable also accepted an invitation to fulfill the rôle of Vice-rector for research at the University of Basel. As well as leading his research projects in sustainable materials , he is willing to, and excited by, the opportunity to lend his experience and talents for further development of the research strategies of the whole University. Taking into account the enormous influence achieved by our SNI founding director, Prof. Hans-Joachim Güntherodt, we look forward to Constable’s contributions to University politics.

Ed Constable grew up in the United Kingdom and studied Chemistry at the University of Oxford where he completed his D.Phil. under the supervision of Professor Kenneth Seddon. Even at this point in his career, Constable was interested in ruthenium chemistry and photochemistry, with a particular emphasis on applications in solar energy, an interest that has never reduced. As a child of the fifties and sixties, he is an enthusiastic spokesman for alternative technologies and environmentally friendly and socially responsible scientific development. He held a number of research fellowships at the University of Cambridge before being appointed to a University Lectureship and Fellowship of Robinson College in 1984. He remained in Cambridge until 1993 when he was appointed Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Basel. Constable is a Fellow of the Royal Chemical Society and member of the American Chemical Society and is member of the Editorial Boards of numerous important scientific journals.

When not working, he is a keen photographer with a special interest in macro photography of insects and invertebrates.

Research interests and Success
Constable’s research activities cover all aspects of supramolecular chemistry and nanochemistry, with a particular emphasis upon the synthesis of new functional systems with well-defined and programmable properties. Much of his work relies upon the use of metal ions in self-assembly reactions or to activate organic building blocks to subsequent reactions. His ERC project focuses on the development of efficient and sustainable solar cells and on the creation of a new generation of organic light emitting diodes (OLED) and light emitting electrochemical cells (LEC). The research concentrates on materials that are easily accessible, an important requirement for a global acceptance and implementation.

His new duties in the rectorate will only marginally affect the productivity of his team. For many years Constable has shared the co-ordination of his research group with his wife, Professor Catherine Housecroft. She will increase her engagement in the management of the team during Constable’s mandate in the rectorate.

His goal for the work in the rectorate is …
Constable is convinced that the most important issues for the University of Basel for the upcoming ten years will be the profiling and the positioning of the University within a competitive research and education market, together with fostering world-leading scientific programmes in Life Sciences and related areas. He is particularly committed to facilitating interdisciplinary research programmes and platforms within the University and between the University and regional partners. As a leading researcher with interests covering chemistry, physics and molecular biology together with common programmes with medicine, he is ideally positioned to provide the vision and facilitate the coordination of these wide-ranging initiatives. Like his predecessor, Peter Meier-Abt, he is committed to translational research ideals, in which pipelines are established in the University through which fundamental scientific developments can be brought to fruition in clinical and other environments. In all of his work, he has the advantage of building on the excellent structures and initiatives that Meier-Abt has developed.

Following his positive experiences with the involvement of Canton Aargau in the framework of the SNI, Constable is convinced of the benefits of closer University engagement with neighbouring Cantons. He also votes for stronger collaborations with industry and neighbouring institutions such as the FHNW.

Constable is dedicated to further improving the standing of the University in both education and research and is committed to nurturing excellence in all aspects of the University. He is committed to further improving the performance of the University of Basel in International University rankings (Shanghai ranking, etc.).

He recognises, that as a relatively small University, Basel cannot aspire to world-leading research in all areas and is committed to a policy of building on excellence. Fundamental to his philosophy is the recognition that the advancement of research is strongly linked to education. He sees the involvement of students with research early in their careers as a very positive aspect of the University of Basel and will encourage initiatives in this direction..

As his own career has progressed increasingly towards technologically relevant research, he has become aware of the importance of technology transfer and the need for dialogue outside the confines of the university ivory tower. He remains committed to this ideal and will explore additional possibilities for University-Industry-Regional platforms that can work efficiently within a professional and high impact environment.

Personally, he says that he is looking forward to all of the challenges and the chance to play a significant role in the development of the University, although he adds with a wry smile “Perhaps you should ask me that same question again in a few years time”.