Chemistry students take home top honours in regional conference

Five students who brought home some of the top awards at a recent undergraduate chemistry conference say they couldn’t have done it if they didn’t study in such a tremendously supportive environment.

“We have amazing supervisors and we get to work with some really talented graduate students,” said Mike Jaroszewicz, who took first place in the physical chemistry/materials and spectroscopy category at the Southern Ontario Undergraduate Student Chemistry Conference held March 30 in Hamilton. “We’re also afforded a great amount of intellectual freedom and the encouragement to try out different ideas.”

A fourth year Chemistry and Biochemistry student in Rob Schurko’s lab, Jaroszewicz delivered a 15-minute oral presentation on a process known as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and how it can be used to obtain new insights on difficult to characterize materials.

Other award winners included:

  • Yousif Atwan, a fourth year student in the lab of department head Bulent Mutus, who took first place in the biological-cell chemistry category. His work focused on the discovery of a new activity for an enzyme, that up to know has been believed to only produce hydrogen sulfide in our bodies. He says it could have potential implications for disease control.
  • Hyder Ali Khan, a fourth year student in the lab of Bulent Mutus, who took second place in the biological-cell chemistry category. His work focused on the regulation by nitroc oxide of an enzyme that produces hydrogen sulfide, and could have implications for vascular disease and regulating the process of vasodilation.
  • Hi Taing, a fourth-year student in Holger Eichhorn’s lab, who took first place in the organic materials category. His work focused on new organic materials that can be used in photovoltaic cells, which he says could have implications for making better solar energy panels.
  • Paul Prochazka, a fourth year student in Tricia Carmichael’s lab, who took third place in the physical chemistry category. His work focused on patterning liquid metals in capillaries and could have implications in the area of stretchable electronics.

Taing credited the team’s success to the support its members receive from their professors.

“I think one of the best things we have here is our student-professor relationships,” he said. “We can always ask questions and they’re always there to guide us.”

“This is really a tribute to the opportunities they’ve provided us,” added Atwan.

Dr. Mutus said the awards speak to the quality of the instruction the students receive, but also to their own ingenuity and initiative.

“The quality of the ideas that they generate is really top-notch,” he said.