Josseline Ramos Figueroa

Holly Fruehwald

Two Canadian doctoral students in chemistry are looking forward to sharing their experiences and ideas with counterparts from around the world as delegates to the International Younger Chemists Network (IYCN). Holly Fruehwald, of Ontario Tech in Oshawa, and Josseline Ramos Figueroa, of the University of Saskatchewan, were selected by administrators of the organization, which was established in 2015 and includes representatives from 33 countries.

“I was really happy with the number and enthusiasm of the people who applied to be delegates,” says Francesca Kerton, a member of Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Department of Chemistry. “It was really difficult to narrow down the field and select just two. I hope they enjoy their time working with IYCN next

Kerton first learned about IYCN at the 2017 general assembly of IUPAC, which subsequently established a formal relationship between the two bodies. In the summer of 2019 IYCN held its inaugural general assembly, which included pairs of delegates from each member country. Eligible candidates for these positions must be chemists under the age of 35, who are within five years of their final degree or other training. IYCN also has thousands of followers across various media channels.

Fruehwald and Ramos Figueroa will be able to join delegates for the 2021 assembly in Montreal, part of IUPAC/CCCE. The planned program features discussions of interest to this up and coming generation of chemists, including public outreach, social media, and governance. The two Canadian representatives will have an opportunity to take part in the steering committees that frame these various exchanges, a process they each expect to be professionally rewarding and engaging.

“When I looked it up, it sounded like something I really want to get involved in,” explains Fruehwald, who first learned about IYCN through social media posts. “I want to build relationships with chemists world-wide, so this sounded like the perfect opportunity.”

She works in materials science pertaining to electrochemistry, a rapidly growing field with implications for fuel cells, supercapacitors, and electrolysers.

“This tends to be a very underestimated field,” she suggests. “I design materials that are cheaper for use in clean electrochemical energy systems.”

Even if the initial interactions only take place in virtual settings, Fruehwald adds, she is looking forward to touching base with others who are similarly passionate about their fields.

“Getting to know people on-line through e-mail or a Zoom meeting would be really helpful, especially because the people involved in IYCN share the same values that I do,” she concludes. “It should be very easy to make connections with them.”

For Ramos Figueroa, such connections will be even more meaningful. After completing her initial work in chemistry in her native Peru, she won a scholarship that brought her to Saskatoon to carry out her current work with small molecules and medically relevant enzymes. She remains in contact with her academic peers in Peru, giving her an international perspective that complements her new role in IYCN.

“When I speak with students at my former university, it opens the eyes of those who are just starting their careers,” she says, noting that her goal is helping them learn how their own career arcs could be as dramatic as hers has been. “It’s not easy, because you don’t know all the opportunities and the different places you can go.”

She found out about IYCN when Kerton mentioned it at CCCE2019 in Quebec City. After approaching her to learn more, Ramos Figueroa applied to become a delegate and found out she had been accepted at the end of August.

“It’s really exciting,” she says. “I’m looking forward to meeting the team and finding out what the next steps they’re planning and hopefully to contribute as much as I can.”