A Brief History of UKM Chemistry Department

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UKM 1970

Faculty of Science, was one of the three academic organs born during the birth of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM - National University of Malaysia) in 1970, and ticking and kicking in the Faculty were Departments of Mathematics, Biology, Physics, Geology and Chemistry, in temporary campuses at Jalan Pantai Baru, the former Maktab Perguruan Persekutuan (Malayan Teachers College) and in Section 17, Petaling Jaya, the former Islamic College where the Faculty of Islamic Study was sited.

UKM temporary campus in the 70's in Jalan Pantai Baru, KL, formerly Malayan Teachers College

UKM temporary campus in Section 17, PJ where most of Chemistry activies took place

The maiden session started on May 18, and Chemistry Department was staffed by Professor Dr Achmad Amiruddin (the Acting Head of Department), Dr Noramly Muslim (lecturer) and Jamjan Rajikan (tutor). Thirty seven (37) students (32 M, 5 F) registered in the faculty and all of them took chemistry as a subject in a course leading to the degree Sarjana Muda Sains (Bachelor of Science). The course was on 3+1 system, the first three years for the general degree and the fourth year for the honours.

UKM 1972

A rapid growth began in the following years, both in terms of staff and students, and laboratories. Initially academic staff were employed on contract basis, while at the same time staff training programme launched its recruitment activity by sending tutors to overseas to pursue their higher degrees. Ending the third session in February 1973 the department was attired with three professors, one senior lecturer, six lecturers, and eight tutors in oversea and a list of up-to-date equipments for teaching which included EM 300 NMR, EM 600 MS, Beckman GC, Cary 83 Raman Laser, AA, EPR, X-Ray Chrystalloraphy and Flourescent, and Philips Dua-Channel Scintillation Spectrometer, as well as a well-equipped glass blowing laboratory. The University was very quick in displaying the department, particularly to the visiting professor, the first being Professor Isjrin Noerdin from Indonesia, followed by Professor Merlin E.H. Howden from Macquire University, Australia.

A bachelor of science received his degree certificate from the university's Chancellor, June 8, 1974

The first SmSn (BSc, General Degree) produced by the department, five of them, received their degree certificates in UKM first graduation ceremony on 23rd June 1973 in the Banquet Hall of the Parliament House from the University's first Chancellor, the late Tun Abdul Razak, who was then Malaysian Prime Minister. All of the five graduates, while on their course for the Honours were absorbed by the department and sent to overseas for further studies. Some of the second and third batch graduates were also similarly absorbed by the department.

Due to a surge of demand for tutors by other newly established local universities, viz., UPM, UTM, and USM, most of the graduate skipped the honours year to join the universities. Nonetheless, the first honours thesis entitled "(trl) Lead content on and in the grass resulted from pollution by motor vehicle exhaust" by Mohd Jelas Harun was submitted to the department in February 1976 under the supervision of Professor Isjrin Noerdin.

In 1974, through to 1978, Chemistry Department was the covalent arm of UKM in bilateral cooperations with Inter-University Council (IUC) in United Kingdom. It started with a brief visit by Professor Glyn O. Phillips from North Wales Institute on 1-8 December 1974, followed by a series of teaching services of academic staffs from the institute and Salford University.

By 1977 the department was standing tall with permanent staff and well-equipped laboratories. Faculty of Science itself had developed further. It expanded with the establishment, on 1st January, 1978, of nine (9) Units on top of the existing Departments. However, two of the Units, viz., Chemical Industry Unit and Nuclear Sciences Unit consumed a fraction of the staffs originally recruited by the Chemistry Department. In 1978 also, a bulk of the University moved to its new permanent campus in Bangi. Chemistry Department in Faculty of Science however still remained in Jalan Pantai Baru.

Chemistry Department Staff in 1981, posing in front of the department office in Jalan Pantai Bharu Campus.
Sitting in front row from left:
Dr Maimunah Sokro, Dr Ibrahim Abdullah, Dr Mohd Ikram Mohd Said (Head of Department), Dr Bohari Mohd Yamin, and Dr Ibrahim Baba.
Standing in back row, from left: Dr Laily Bin Din, Dr Murtedza Mohamad, Dr Harun Hj Hamzah, En Nik Idris Yusof, Dr Siraj Omar, Dr Bookhari Anuar, Dr Jamaluddin Mohd Daud, Dr Wan Mohamed Wan Muda, and Dr Mohd Wahid Samsudin.

UKM permanent campus in Bangi under construction in 1975. Chemistry Department was not yet built. Its site is at the top-right corner of the picture, after the last visible structure of Tun Sri Lanang Library. The majestic DECTAR is seen on the foreground.

Chemistry Department, and the rest of UKM, except medical faculty in Kuala Lumpur and Natural Resource Science Faculty in Sabah, moved to Bangi in March - April 1982, incidently with a major restructuring excercise. Sceience-based departments were regrouped into three faculties, viz., Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences, Faculty of Life Sciences and Centre for Quantitative Studies. Chemistry Department, with Physics, Electronics, Geology, Chemical Industry, and Nuclear Sciences fall in the former. The programme of study was also restructured to change from 3+1 to 4+0 system. With the final move to the permanent campus in Bangi, the former Teachers College in Jalan Pantai Baru and former Islamic College in Section 17, Petaling Jaya were thus vacated. The Chemical Industry Unit and Electronic Unit were actually the precursor to the Department of Chemical & Process Engineering, and Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, respectively, which detached from the Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences on the establishment of Faculty of Engineering on 1st November 1984. The Nuclear Sciences Unit had since then upgraded to full department.

In Bangi, Chemistry Department made and lived up to its name, alongside Physics, Geology and Nuclear Sciences Departments in the Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences. The first master degree thesis, entitled "(trl) Development of Methods for Concentrating Hydrocarbon Traces from Aqueous Solution", was successfully submitted in 1987 by Hamonangan Naianggolan, an Indonesian, under the supervision of Associate Professor Dr Md Pauzi Abdullah, and was externally examined by Associate Professor Dr Wan Mohd Zain Wan Yunus from (formerly) University Pertanian Malaysia (UPM). And the same candidate, under the same supervisor submitted the first doctorate thesis in this department in 1994; it was externally examined by Professor Dr Mohammad Idris Salleh from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

Beginning in 1992/93 session UKM adopted a new evaluation system, the CGPA replacing the imperial percentile grades. And beginning in 1996/97 session, UKM again overhauled all its degree programmes to adopt 3+0 system, and Chemistry Department was not an exception in both cases. UKM corporatisation dawn, beginning in 1998/99 apparently made way for many activities in the department to seek cooperation with the outside institutions, public or private.

Another major restructuring took place in UKM in 1999. Four science-based faculties were merged (or rather remerged), i.e. Faculty of Life Sciences, Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences, Faculty of Mathematical Science and Faculty of Natural Resources Science. The new faculty was named Faculty of Science and Technology. The new faculty was officially formed on July 19. Metamorphing out of the new faculty were five new schools of study: (1) School of Chemical Science and Food Technology with its major elements derived from Chemistry Department of the former Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences and Food Science Department of the former Faculty of Life Sciences; (2) School of Applied Physics; (3) School of Environmental and Natural Resouce Sciences; (4) School of Molecular Bioscience and Biotechnology; and (5) School of Mathematical Science.

Dated April 20, 2001

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