In this series of blog posts celebrating our Department of Chemical Engineering's 50th anniversary, we asked previous Heads of Depts about their time at Bath. Here, Professor Stan Kolaczkowski, who was an academic member of staff from 1984 to 2016, and Head of Department from 1997- 2003 answers our questions.

man stood in lab coat in lab next to chemical engineering rig equipment

Do you have any fun anecdotes about your time in the Department?

Many decades ago, when Quality Assurance was first being forced onto universities by our Government, I had to attend a meeting with the external QA team who were part of the external conspiracy, and I was asked: “How do you know that a degree in Chemical Engineering at this university is worth the same as a degree in Social Sciences?”. It was a question that I found strange and somewhat amusing, as it showed that the QA team didn’t understand the difference between the two disciplines. I replied that it is obvious that they are not the same, as Chemical Engineering is one of the hardest degrees to study on this campus - something that many students will tell you, and is evident from the content and expectations (workload and range of topics covered). Also, different skills are required in these two very different disciplines!

What did you find most challenging in your time as Head of Department?

During my two terms as Head (from 1997 to 2003):

  • Having to fight for the construction of a new building (which led to 9W being built)
  • Having to defend our position when the Vice Chancellor was thinking of whether or not to continue supporting the Department of Chemical Engineering (Note: the Department of Chemistry was also under scrutiny at the same time)
  • Debates with Prof Cliff Burrows (new Dean of the Faculty) over various matters, defending my staff and arguing for resources to be provided for us to expand

What is/was your favourite subject to teach?

Aspects of the management course and design project work because I was able to share my industrial experience with the class.

What were some of your highlights or achievements?

I enjoyed the challenge of presenting my Inaugural Lecture (on Catalytic Combustion, 20 Feb 1997) as a Professor with many practical demonstrations – not very often seen now in a public lecture because of safety constraints.

One big achievement as a Head of Department was persuading the University to invest in Chemical Engineering, and securing a contribution of £950,000 from HEFCE to that construction cost. Then the execution of the construction of 9W (cost £ 6.5M) and the big move. That was followed by a Royal Opening by Prince Philip (HRH, The Duke of Edinburgh) on 8 March 2002.

Do you have a favourite spot at the University or in the Department?

It used to be the Senior Common Room before parts of it got turned into a dining area - furniture was replaced and it started to look like an airport lounge. The restaurant used for special occasions and to treat guests was a pleasure – sadly that is now gone.

If you were to have a chemical engineering-related tattoo (e.g. formula, famous engineer, quote etc), what would it be?

I have no interest in a tattoo – best left to sailors…. Also, my interest in Chemical Engineering was not because of any famous invention or person, it was created by the powerful image of an oil refinery at night, and the thought of being able to understand such a complex process and become the type of person who could design and manage such a complex process, using skills in Mathematics/Chemistry/Physics.

Do you have any inspiring colleagues, lecturers, friends, or students you'd like to thank?

During the journey of life, many individuals had a strong influence on my life. My line manager (Owen Williams) during my industrial placement period had a big influence, and so did my PhD supervisor (Prof Barry Crittenden), and then during my 7 years working for Esso Petroleum, many of my line managers had a strong influence on how I developed.

If you had to describe the Department (in your time) in three words, what would they be?

If considering the limited resources provided versus performance and output, then Bath Chem Eng, was: Best Value - UK!

If you could give your younger self a bit of advice now, what would it be?

If considering an academic career, whilst many aspects are rewarding, many of the fun aspects of the job have disappeared over the last decade, and demands are very high. Life is short, so make sure that you have a good balance between work and downtime.

Posted in: 50 years of chemical engineering, Celebrating success, Faculty of Engineering and Design