Chemists from around the commonwealth will be converging on Trinidad and Tobago this spring for the inaugural Commonwealth Chemistry Congress from 18-21 May 2020. The event is being organised by Commonwealth Chemistry, the Federation of Commonwealth Chemical Sciences Societies, bringing together chemists from across the Commonwealth under the banner of equality for all. The Commonwealth Chemistry Congress will promote the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), strengthen scientific capacity, inspire and elevate the role of the chemical sciences to society and policy makers, and celebrate achievements in chemistry. The congress will feature speakers from across the globe, including Dr. Mona Nemer, MCIC, the government of Canada’s Chief Science Advisor and Steven Holdcroft, FCIC and Vice President of the CSC. In addition to promoting the role of chemists and chemistry in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Congress is also focusing on opportunities for young people at the beginning of their careers. Among the key objectives will be fostering joint research activities, educational programs, and training for researchers on policy matters and communicating their work to broader audiences.

We are excited about Canada’s three early-career chemists who have been accepted to represent Canada at the Congress:

Amanda Bongers, Queen’s University

Amanda joined the Queen’s Chemistry Department in July 2019 as an Assistant Professor in Chemistry Education Research. Her group studies how students learn chemistry using approaches from cognitive science, educational theories, and chemistry expertise from her background in biochemistry and organic chemistry. The goal of this research is to bring evidence-based practices into university classrooms, where innovations are needed for Canada to remain a world leader in science.

At the congress, Amanda will present her group’s work in exploring how sustainability is being taught and defined by organic chemistry educators and researchers in Canada. In the process, her group is collaborating with chemists to develop a framework for sustainability that goes beyond green chemistry. This work is a first step towards aligning students’ education with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and more broadly to help reinvent chemistry as the central science for a sustainable future.

Alex Veinot, MCIC, Queen’s University

Alex Veinot is a PhD student at Queen’s University under the supervision of Professor Cathleen Crudden. His research focuses on developing new organic-on-metal technologies, specifically N-heterocyclic carbenes (NHCs) on copper. This metal has emerged as an increasingly attractive alternative to gold, which has been widely employed in these devices because of its high resistance to oxidation and ease of handling. However, gold extraction and refining leads to major environmental harm, including carbon emissions and contamination from harsh solvents.

Mitigating these risks will help meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, but alternatives such as copper present their own challenges, such as a tendency to oxidize under ambient conditions. Alex will present his research, which demonstrates the ability of NHCs to simultaneously etch and functionalize oxidized copper surfaces. This work provides the foundation for extending the use of NHC-based monolayers to more reactive metal substrates that are highly abundant but prone to oxidation.

Juliana Vidal, MCIC, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Juliana is currently a PhD candidate at Memorial University of Newfoundland, supervised by Dr. Francesca Kerton and co-supervised by Dr. Stephanie MacQuarrie (Cape Breton University). She previously completed her undergraduate and Master’s degrees at Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, in Brazil. She is an executive member of the Network of Early-Career Sustainable Scientists and Engineers, an international movement of early-career scientists working together to tackle global sustainability challenges.

In her current research, Juliana is investigating new applications for biochar, which is a sustainable and renewable material. Biochar is prepared from waste produced within the forestry, wood and paper industries. Her presentation at the Congress will discuss the implementation of biochar as a catalyst for transformations of carbon dioxide into value-added products. This research contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals Numbers 12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns) and 13 (Climate Action), because the large-scale applications of biochar will reduce waste in important industries and have the potential to mitigate climate change effects.