A high note for research and education

The Sir William Henry Bragg building, a hub for physical sciences and engineering teaching and research at Leeds, has been officially opened.

Professor Nora de Leeuw, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk at the event.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk, and Professor Nora de Leeuw talk to someone at the official opening of the Sir William Henry Bragg Building.

Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society and Chief Executive of the Turing Institute – the national organisation for data science and artificial intelligence – unveiled a plaque to mark the opening on Tuesday 7 June.

The building is home to the School of Computing and School of Physics and Astronomy as well as the Bragg Centre for Materials Research

It incorporates the old School of Mining, with the Grade II listed structure’s Portland stone façade still in place, but the space behind it has been remodelled and connected to a new seven-storey glass-and-steel complex with teaching rooms and laboratories.  

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk, who spoke at the opening, said: “The Braggs were incredible individuals, whose curiosity and creativity cut across traditional academic boundaries and inspired their ground-breaking research. This building will serve as a fitting legacy to their achievements.

“The official opening marks an exciting new era for research, innovation and student education at Leeds. The building’s facilities will enable the Leeds community – staff and students - to continue to work across the boundaries between academic subjects, creating greater opportunities to collaborate and partner to tackle some of the biggest challenges the world faces today. 

“New connections between education, research and societal impact, and increased collaboration with industry – locally, regionally and globally – will be forged here, long into the future.”

Designed for 21st century science

The building has been designed to meet the challenges of 21st century science as well as our 2020-2030 strategy.  

When fully operational, facilities in the building will include:  

  • A mock operating theatre where engineers can work with clinicians on robots for medicine and healthcare.  
  • The Wolfson Imaging Facility, which will enable scientists to see molecules interacting in real time in more detail than ever before.  
  • Work in the Bragg Centre for Materials Research, will help establish the UK as a centre for the design and manufacture of new advanced materials to solve some of the big problems facing the world.  

Leeds is a founding partner of the Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials, and the Institute’s work at Leeds will be co-located in the building with the Bragg Centre for Materials Research. Work will focus on manipulating and developing materials at the scale of individual atoms.

The basement will house sensitive equipment, including some of the most advanced electron microscope technology in the UK. It has been designed so that vibration from passing traffic does not interfere with ultra-sensitive laboratory instruments.

Science meets art

universityofleeds · The Black Dyke Band - The Bragg Fanfare

Besides science, The Sir William Henry Bragg building has already had an impact on the arts world too, with a special fanfare performed by the Black Dyke Band marking the official opening.

The specially-composed fanfare evokes the mathematical puzzle that faced Bragg and his son Lawrence as they investigated the atomic structure of crystals using X-ray beams.  

The Bragg Fanfare was written by Philip Wilby, a musical associate and composer with the Black Dyke Band and Emeritus Professor in the School of Music at Leeds.  

He created the fanfare using musical notes that related to the letters that make up the name Bragg: B natural, D, A, G and G-sharp.  

An illustration of the notes in the Bragg Fanfare - B natural, D (here depicted with R), A G and G-sharp.Professor Wilby said: “The creative spark for the composition was the way the Bragg name translated into music – with R being represented by the note D. When those notes are arranged harmonically, the sound is modernistic and inherently dissonant. That creates an aural question which is resolved over the following minute.  

“That musical journey mirrors what the Braggs had to do. They were taking measurements from their experiments and had to make sense of them, and their mathematical conundrum was eventually resolved when they formulated the Bragg Equation.”  

The world premiere of the Bragg Fanfare was played by a quintet from the Black Dyke Band, one of the most famous brass ensembles in the world, in front of an invited audience. 

The Sir William Henry Bragg building is also home to The Worlds of If – a large sculpture on the outside of the building by artist Sara Barker. 

Measuring seven metres by just over six metres, and positioned more than four metres above the ground, the installation features a variety of shapes, motifs and colours conveying ideas linked to science and engineering – and making connections with Leeds as a former centre of the textile industry and as a creative city.

It is one of the latest additions to the extensive range of public art on the Leeds campus.

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