Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden Institute of Chemistry

Minor Sustainable Chemistry and Biotechnology

If mankind wants to survive into the 22nd century, we will need to change the way we live drastically. The human impact on our planet is everywhere, we are changing the atmosphere, the oceans and the land, leading to global warming, climate change, loss of biodiversity and pervasive pollution. There is no other solution than to create a sustainable way of living. So we need to find ways to produce and store energy in a sustainable way and to make all the processes and products of industry sustainable. Nature can be a great source of inspiration because most natural processes are circular. Many of the underlying questions that need to be addressed are in the realms of chemistry, biology, chemical engineering and biotechnology.

The minor Sustainable Chemistry and Biotechnology introduces students to the concepts of sustainability from a (bio)chemical point of view. For example, the transition to clean energy production and storage can be inspired by photosynthesis but requires an understanding of how to split water and make hydrogen gas. Using plant materials as feedstock for bioplastics requires an understanding of the biochemical pathways and the biotechnological challenges. Such topics are addressed in this minor, which is a joint effort of the departments Biotechnology and Chemical Engineering at TU Delft and the Institute of Chemistry at Leiden University.

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Anthropocene: The planet of Man
Introduction course that aims to provide a broad picture of sustainability issues and to convey the sense of urgency

Green chemistry
Sustainable synthesis of valuable products, from fundamental principles to application

Chemical Energy Transition: From Nanoscience to Technology 
Energy conversion in nature; Fuel cell chemistry, the hydrogen economy, batteries, carbon capture 

Sustainable Chemical Industry based on Non-Fossil Feedstocks
Biomass conversion; Catalytic conversion for chemicals and products; Recycling of waste streams; Enzymatic and microbe systems

Energy Transition: Photon power
Photosynthesis, artificial photosynthesis and solar cells 

Examples from Sustainable Industry
Industrial examples of successes and challenges in implementation of circular concepts 

Group project
The students will address a sustainability problem in small groups. They will define the topic, find literature to give a qualitative and quantitative description and critically discuss possible solutions. The group project runs over the full length of the minor and trains transferable skills in collaboration, critical thinking and oral and written communication. Assessment is based on presentations and discussions with the other student groups.

We aim to form a student community for the duration of this minor. The Anthropocene course will consist of small groups to discuss the sustainability questions introduced by guest lecturers and the students will share their views in presentations and discussions. This is a prelude to the Group project that will delve deeper into specific questions.
Other courses will consist of lectures and tutorials, as well as discussions, presentations or writing assignments.

Learning objectives: 
The advanced minor programme is intended for students from different backgrounds to extend the horizon of their knowledge around the major challenges in sustainable chemistry. 

After completing the programme, students:

  1. can explain the general concept of sustainability and evaluate a potential sustainable solution to a chemistry problem;
  2. can describe natural element cycles and critically reflect on the impact of human activity on these cycles; 
  3. can critically reflect on sustainability of chemical processes and products;
  4. can describe the fundamental chemical problems in energy conversion and critically reflect on sustainable energy production;
  5. can demonstrate a capacity to collaborate in interdisciplinary teams and contribute to a shared goal.

Given the chemical nature of the topics, without a good basic knowledge of chemistry of the students, the required level cannot be reached. Entrance levels have been formulated: 

  • Academic bachelor’s students in the natural sciences that teach chemistry at least as supporting subject can enter the minor. 
  • HBO bachelor’s students in Chemistry who have completed all courses of the first three years can participate.

The admission committee will decide on admission in other cases on an individual basis.

The minor Sustainable Chemistry and Biotechnology is a selection minor with an early registration deadline. The registration period will be open from 2 May until 31 May 13:00.

During the May registration period:

uSis Prospectus number: 4000MSCHBN
uSis Class number: 1152

All students will be informed by the minor coordinator about placement before the first week of June. If you have any questions about placement don't hesitate to contact the coordinator, Zarlasht Khorsand, at onderwijscoordinator-bachelor-lst@lic.leidenuniv.nl.

A maximum of 60 students can be admitted (there are still plenty of places available!). Selection criteria:

  • LDE students who are eligible for automatic admission are admitted in the order of registration;
  • LDE students have preference over students from other universities;
  • Academic students have preferences over HBO students;
  • Students that are not automatically eligible can be admitted by the admission committee only before the first week of June.

LDE = Leiden/Delft/Erasmus Universities

Talitha den Bok

Student Life Science & Technology

Talitha den Bok

The minor Sustainable Chemistry & Biotechnology has allowed me to expand my knowledge on biotechnology and chemistry as an application for sustainable innovation. The minor really pushes you to confront future challenges and to think actively about saving this planet through science, together with a small group of versatile students. As a Life Science & Technology student I found it inspiring to learn more about the use of biotechnology to save this planet and it has been a valuable chance to improve my presentation and teamwork skills.

Bente Bouwmeester

Student Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences

Bente Bouwmeester

I chose the minor because I am very interested in Chemistry and was keen on learning more about future possibilities in a more sustainable world. At the beginning of the minor, I was very much aware of climate change and the energy crisis, however the minor Sustainable Chemistry and Biotechnology really showed me the contemporary problems in a far more elaborate way, diving into problems I was not even aware of. The minor did not only teach me about the problems, but it mainly taught me to look for solutions on how to solve these problems. The group projects during the minor give you the opportunity to actively think about the challenges and solutions with other students.

David van Roon

Student Molecular Science and Technology

David van Roon

The minor Sustainable Chemistry & Biotechnology is very interesting. At the beginning of the minor, you are confronted with a range of problems we face as humanity because of pollution and climate change. In the courses after that, you are introduced to a wide range of new technologies looking to solve these problems. It is very inspiring to see how you can use your knowledge of chemistry and biotechnology to combat climate change and create a better world. During the group projects in this minor, you dive deeper into these technologies. Working together with students from a variety of backgrounds was very interesting as it provides you with different insights and ideas you would otherwise not have thought of.

The language of education is English.

The education is given at the campuses of the Universities of Leiden and Delft.

For more information, contact the education coordinator, Zarlasht Khorsand, at onderwijscoordinator-bachelor-lst@lic.leidenuniv.nl

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