First Briton in space officially opens University of Sheffield's world-leading teaching and research building the Diamond

University of Sheffield alumna and the first Briton to go into space, Dr Helen Sharman OBE, has today (20 July 2017) officially opened the Diamond - the University’s newest world-class teaching and research facility.

Completed in 2015, the Diamond building and its facilities represent the University of Sheffield’s largest ever investment in learning and teaching.

The Diamond caters for more than 5,000 students from the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering - with 19 specialist engineering labs - and boasts teaching facilities, library and IT services and student study spaces for use by all students at the University.

Dr Sharman, who graduated from the University of Sheffield with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry in 1984 and was the first woman to visit the Mir space station, unveiled a plaque at a private ceremony before being taken on a tour of the Diamond’s laboratories. She was shown how students can design products using CAD, fabricate them in the workshops or with 3D printers before testing them in a wind tunnel or testing machines.

She also saw the Diamond’s chemical labs, bioengineering labs, clean room, flight simulators, media editing and virtual reality suites - all of which combine to give students a world-leading learning experience.

Commenting on her visit to the Diamond, Dr Sharman said:

“What really excites me about the Diamond is the interdisciplinary nature of the engineering that’s being encouraged here, because life doesn’t work in silos.

“The other thing is the openness of the labs for practical use – you get such a good feeling about how our machines behave, if you actually make things yourself. And to be able to make changes, think on the spot and have a go - it’s a hothouse for innovation.

“I think engineering students at the University of Sheffield have a truly wonderful building in which they can best create the solutions to engineering problems of the future.”

Whilst in Sheffield, Dr Sharman also received an honorary degree from the University of Sheffield in recognition of her outstanding achievements.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said:

“We are delighted to welcome Dr Sharman back to the University of Sheffield today to open a building which is fittingly dedicated to the endeavour of building knowledge and discovery.

“Helen is someone who has experienced what very few can match, she has looked back at our planet from space and appreciated the power and wonder of science, engineering and human endeavour. Helen began her journey in Sheffield and even the sky was not the limit. I can think of no better person to formally open the Diamond building.”

The University has a long tradition of inviting people of distinction to open its buildings - including HM King Edward VII, HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and the poet T.S. Eliot.

Dr Helen Sharman at the opening of the Diamond

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