Master’s student Karly Dominato breezes into her research supervisor’s office carrying a hard-sided case the size of a baby’s bassinette.
Inside she has carefully nestled slender copper tubes filled with gas she collected from a frigid drilling site in Saskatchewan.
On this day, Dominato is shipping the samples off to a lab overseas. But first she is showing chemistry professor Scott Mundle how she has cradled them in foam. She even procured the case they’re being shipped in — she bought out the inventory of cases from a Canadian Tire store after spotting them on clearance.
Dr. Mundle says his colleagues would be jealous if they knew what a gem of a researcher he has in Dominato. But he let the cat out of the bag soon after the Saskatchewan trip when he wrote a letter supporting her nomination by the chemistry department for the Faculty of Science’s Going Above & Beyond in Research award.
“There is absolutely no doubt that she will be recognized as a leading Canadian scientist of her generation,” Mundle wrote in the winning nomination.
Dominato collected the award last week at the faculty’s Spring and Shout event. The award comes with a $1,000 prize and is yet another accolade to include on Dominato’s already impressive resume.
“Karly’s experience and achievements go far beyond what is expected of any student,” said Mundle. At only 22 years old, she has co-authored six industry reports and two peer-reviewed journal articles and was invited to speak at a top oil and gas industry conference.
“Karly is such a strong, competent scientist that it is easy to forget she is a first-year graduate student.”
Dominato runs the isotope mass spectrometers in Mundle’s lab, analyzing gas mixtures for carbon and hydrogen isotopes. In the past year, she has been to remote sites in Western Canada’s oilfield four times for week-long stints. There she worked alongside Mundle collecting samples in air so toxic, they had to use breathing apparatus, carrying tanks on their backs. Despite having to work around the clock with no sleep, Dominato “thrived” in the harsh conditions, Mundle said.
“I am in a continuous state of shock and awe of what she is capable of achieving.”
More recently, Dominato has begun collaborating on projects involving the local greenhouse industry.
When Dominato was in high school, the former lifeguard thought she might want to become an optometrist. Taking Mundle’s instrumental chemistry class in third year pointed her in a new direction.
“When I started university I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do or if I’d ever be able to get a job,” Dominato said. “Because I’m making all these industry connections, and now with all these skills, I feel I have the experience I’ll need.”
Dominato won the Going Above and Beyond in Research award for a Master’s student. The award for a doctoral student went to Justin Binder. Nathan Doupnic received the award for an undergraduate student at an earlier event. All three winners major in chemistry and biochemistry.
The full list of student, faculty and staff awards announced Wednesday is available on the Faculty of Science Facebook page.
─ Sarah Sacheli