McMaster University
News Archives (2009) Print E-mail

1. John Brennan - McMaster Awarded $22 Million
2. Department News
3. More Students Win CSC Poster Awards!
4. Students Win CSC Poster Awards
5. CSC 2009
6. Christa Homenick Wins Poster Award
7. May@Mac 2009 - Another Success

8. Barbra DeJean Retires
9. Former Professor Passes
10. Alumni Wins Power Within Award
11. Nick Burke Wins President's Award!
12. Weian Zhao Receives Prestigious Postdoctoral Fellowship
13. SOUSCC Results
14. Pippa Lock Wins MSU Teaching Award for Science
15. Chemistry Dept. Mourns the Passing of Dr. Alicja Mika
16. 4G9 Presentation Night

"McMaster Chemical Extracts" circa 2002

McMaster Awarded $22 Million to Establish “Biointerfaces Institute”

The Department of Chemistry has again had major success in obtaining funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI). In mid-June it was announced that CFI awarded ~$7.2 million to a project with a total budget of $22 million which will provide new infrastructure and technical support for the study of biointerfaces.

The new funding will allow the establishment of the Biointerfaces Institute, which has the goal of using high-throughput synthesis and screening technologies coupled with advanced surface characterization methods to provide a new understanding the nature of the biological/material interface, or biointerface. Researchers will study how biological systems respond to the introduction of synthetic materials, and conversely, how an engineered interface responds to, or is compatible with, a biological system. These studies will have an impact on a variety of areas, including biosensors, drug delivery, and implantable devices. Led by John Brennan, a Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Bioanalytical Chemistry, this project involves researchers from the Faculties of Science, Engineering and Health Sciences. These include Fred Capretta (Chemistry), Michael Brook (Chemistry), Giuseppe Melacini (Chemistry/Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences), Yingfu Li (Chemistry/Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences), Cecile Fradin (Physics/Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences), Heather Sheardown, Robert Pelton, Raja Ghosh and John Brash, all from the Department of Chemical Engineering.

A complete list of projects funded by the CFI can be found at:

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) is an independent corporation created by the Government of Canada to fund research infrastructure. The CFI's mandate is to strengthen the capacity of Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals

Department News

1. Department Chair:

The Board of Governors met yesterday and confirmed my reappointment as Chair for another term. This is not news to many of you as you have been aware of this decision for a while. The Board vote is the final step in a lengthy process. I have forwarded Dean Capone's e-mail message that was sent to faculty members in the the Faculty of Science. I requested a 3-year rather than a normal 5-year term of reappointment. I feel that this period will be sufficient to give me the time needed for full implementation of the new undergraduate programs and to get a revised graduate program in place.

2. Department Name Change:

The Board of Governors also approved the change of the department's name to the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. Again many of you are aware that a change of the department's name was underway but the official announcement could only occur once the Board had given its approval. I will forward the 2-page rationale that was submitted for Faculty, Senate and Board for their consuderation and approval when I return to Canada. This name change reflects the evolution in research and teaching directions within the department over the past decade or so. This comes into effect July 1st, 2009.

3. Biointerfaces Institute CFI Grant Awarded:

A CFI grant submitted in the last competition and entitled 'Biointerfaces Institute' has been funded. John Brennan served as the architect and the principal applicant for a team of Science and Engineering faculty members. The CFI portion was fully funded at $7.23M. With provincial matching funds and vendor participation this grant will total about $18.1M. Congratulations to John and his team on this major award. I want to acknowledge the large amount of work done by Fred Capretta on the preparation of this grant. Fred worked closely with John and handled the the coordination of all of the equipment quotes and the preparation of the complex Financial Module within the grant.

4. Associate Chairs in the Department:

The Chair Selection Committee recommended the establishment of 3 Associate Chair positions. I agreed to these suggestions and I am pleased to announce the names of the persons who have agreed to serve in these positions. These positions will be effective July 1, 2009.

Associate Chair (Graduate Studies): Alex Adronov

Associate Chair (Undergraduate Studies): Ignacio Vargas-Baca

Associate Chair (Research): Paul Berti

Alex Adronov replaces Jacques Barbier who has served in this capacity for 10 years. The other two Associate Chair positions are new positions for this department. An undergraduate Associate Chair is a position that is part of the administration in many departments while an Associate Chair (Research) is a position in very few departments. Please join me in thanking these three for agreeing to serve as Associate Chairs for a 3-year period which will parallel my renewal term. In the future the Associate Chair positions will have 5-year terms like the Chair's term.

Thank you,
Brian E. McCarry, Ph.D. Professor and Chair,

More Students Win CSC Poster Awards!

Deborah Durbin won the CIC Hamilton Section Undergraduate Poster Competition (Organic Division) at last week’s CSC Conference.

Chem. Bio. student Alan Vanderkooy won the best poster in the competition at the 42nd Organosilicon Symposium, held in Long Branch, NJ in June 2009.  The poster, examining the use of silica supported phage for the detection of E. coli draws on synthetic organic and silicon chemistry, colloid chemistry, and on control of bacteriaphage and its binding to both a mineral surface and to E. coli, under conditions that could be used for testing of water quality and food.

Congratulations to them both!

Students Win CSC Poster Awards

At the recent CSC meeting in Hamilton, two of our students won the two poster prizes that were available from the Macromolecular Science and Engineering Division (MSED), each worth $250.

Ana Villafranca with her poster, titled "Laser-induced self-action phenomena in a photopolymerizable medium" and

Bonnie Leung with her poster, titled "Spectromicroscopy of protein interactions with polymeric biomaterials".

Congratulation to both!

CSC 2009

The CSC 2009 Conference and Exhibition was an unqualified success.

I want to thank everyone who participated in the organization and the in on-site activities of the conference for making it such a success.  I have received nothing but positive and enthusiastic comments on the quality of the sessions and the overall organization of the conference from non-McMaster attendees.  These comments are a testament to the collective efforts of everyone involved.  Conference attendees will remember the Hamilton meeting for many years and will hold it up as the bar for future conferences to achieve.

In particular, I want to thank Willie Leigh, Technical Program Chair, for overseeing the assembly of a truly outstanding scientific program.  Willie was ably assisted by the division chairs and many others who organized excellent symposia and general programs.  The number and calibre of invited speakers and the overall quality of the oral presentations resulted in strong attendance at all sessions.  In particular, the topical nature of the many ‘new’ sessions reflects the evolving nature of chemistry in Canada; these sessions were well attended, particularly by students.

As of yesterday afternoon conference registration was 2076, an all-time record for a CSC Conference and a number which eclipsed the attendance at a meeting in Montreal several years ago.

A few highlights.  The Inorganic Division program with its symposium in honour of Ron Gillespie and the Physical and Theoretical Division program with its theoretical chemistry symposium in honour of Richard Bader were strong features of this conference.  For many years some divisions have had mixed success in attracting attendees (e.g., the chemical education, environment and industrial divisions); this year these divisions were rejuvenated with excellent programs and record attendance at many sessions.   The performance by Willie Leigh and The Stingrays at the Inorganic Mixer was the musical hit of the conference and it is unlikely any future CSC Program Chair will be asked to give an encore performance.

Thanks to all for a job well done.


Brian E. McCarry, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair


Christa Homenick Wins Poster Award

Christa Homenick, a graduate student in Alex Adronov's group, recently returned from the Canadian Biomaterials Society Conference (held in Quebec City).  She presented a poster entitled "Carbon Nanotube Reinforced Collagen as a Biomaterial", for which she won a poster prize (one of four).

May@Mac - Another Success

Hello all, this is a quick note to recognize the outstanding efforts of the volunteers who were on hand for Saturday’s May@MAC Open House. May@MAC is a major recruiting event for prospective Year 1 students. Some 80% of students who have received acceptance offers from Universities do not make their final selection until the last 2 weeks of May, so this open house is a crucial recruiting event.

The entire crew of volunteers worked very hard to ensure that our visitors received personal attention. Visitors were given an opportunity to view our Year 1 labs, the undergraduate instrument facility, and additional displays and demonstrations on X-Ray crystal structures, superconductors, pH, and chemical demonstrations, as well as two mini “Magic of Molecules” shows. We had a steady stream of visitors from shortly after 9 a.m. lasting throughout the event, and we estimate we had at least 300 visitors. Thank you to everyone for your hard work; our visitors were treated well and were very impressed.

Our volunteers:

Students (Undergraduate and Graduate):

Janice Calzavara
Ryan Chadwick
Ken Chalcraft
Patricia Edem
Fan Fei
Vivian Gawuga
Krista Gill
Justin Hicks
Christa Homenick
Lawrence Huck
Julie Lebert
Adam Leontowich
Jessamyn Little
Anika Louie
Meaghan O’Brien
Cory Ozimok
Jeff Price
Tyler Russel
Alison Stewart
Tara Tovstiga
Nesrin Vurgun
Peng Wang
Stephen Wang
Jared Wiseman
Patigul Yiming

Staff and Faculty:

Alex Adronov
Jacques Barbier
Jim Britten
David Emslie
Brian McCarry
Giuseppe Melacini
Yurij Mozharivskjy

and additional thanks to those who contributed to the preparations throughout the week, particularly our behind the scenes technical staff team (Tricia, Jeff, Karen, Trisha, Nicki).

Dr. Pippa Lock, Assistant Professor
Year 1 Coordinator

Barbra DeJean Retires

Barbra - quiet, unassuming, blending into the woodwork but look out! There's that sarcastic wit, usually directed at herself but coming at you when least expected. I'll miss walking into the main office, filling my water bottle and not hearing that strange muttering in the shadowy background. "Barbra? Is that you talking to yourself again?" She throws her head back and laughs and admits, yes, she's talking to herself again.

Barbra holds a great camaraderie with the people of our department as they pass in and out, checking on their mail and waiting to speak to Lynda. Maybe they just feel sorry for her, sitting in the dark behind that wall of desk, that they stop to talk and chat (actually it's her way of spying on us without our knowing). But having been sucked in, no one fails to walk away without a smile from something Barbra has said. She tries her darnedest to be invisible - never letting anyone take her picture and shying away from most lunches and social events - yet she has one of the largest personalities of anyone I know.

As typical, Barbra didn't want a retirement party - not even a passing mention. She wanted to quietly slip away without anyone noticing (as if!). So, now, thinking she has accomplished that, I have free reign to write whatever I want without her marching into my office to protest! So, Barbra, this is what I would have said, had you allowed me to: You will be missed. By staff, faculty and students alike. Whoever replaces you shall no doubt turn on the lights and allow their picture to be taken, dispelling the mystery in the main office (who is that woman?) and they may even have a sense of humour but no one, no one will ever take your place. You never failed to make me (and many others) laugh and provide light to our day while sitting in your shadows! Whether a story to relay or frustration at some computer program, you joke and carry-on without ever seeming to let it all get to you. Let the music play (I hope you're leaving the radio) and I know you'll stroll into retirement just as easily as you would stroll down the hall - unhurried, unhindered and a smile on your face.



Former Professor Passes

We are saddened to learn, a former professor of our department, Jack McCullough, has passed away. The obituary appeared in today’s Hamilton Spectator (copied below). There is no mention of any funeral or memorial service. Jack joined the department in 1965 with research interests in organic photochemistry.

McCULLOUGH, John James September 27, 1937 - May 4, 2009 John J. McCullough passed away on May 4, 2009 at St. Catharines General Hospital after a brief battle with cancer. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1937 and received a Bachelor of Science and PhD in stereochemistry from Queen's University, Belfast. After a year (1962 - 1963) at Belfast as a post-doctoral Fellow, he was awarded a Fulbright travel fellowship to visit the U.S., where he worked at the University of Wisconsin. He then moved on to McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario where he worked as a professor. He published numerous papers on photochemical additions, rearrangements, and intermediates in organic photochemistry, and in 1972 collaborated at UC Berkeley on chemical evolution, a second field of interest. After leaving McMaster in the late 1980s, he continued to collaborate and publish in the field for some years. John enjoyed classical music, opera, badminton and photography. He will be missed by his three children Jacqueline, John and Lesley, and three grandchildren, Max, Thea and Eleanor.

Dave Evans Wins Power Within Award for Business Excellence in Nuclear

by Frank V. Puzzuoli,
Section Manager – Process Chemistry and Effluents

Please join me in congratulating Dave Evans, from the Chemistry, Metallurgy and Welding Department, for being selected as the winner of the Power Within Award for Business Excellence in Nuclear. The award is a tribute to Dave’s many contributions to OPG over his 26 year tenure with the company.

Dave started with Ontario Hydro in 1983 and is well recognized in the CANDU chemistry community, not only for his expertise in chemistry, but also for broad technical knowledge. He has published numerous articles and reports, and has given many presentations on the subject of CANDU chemistry. A few examples of where Dave has used his expertise in resolving production and business issues in recent years are:

Identifying faulted Candecon application as the cause of corrosion of steam generator tubes in Pickering Unit 2 in 2005.

Assisting Pickering in the aftermath of the Water Treatment resin excursion event in December 2006.

Devising a simple, chemical cleaning strategy to unblock the Liquid Zone bubbler in Pickering Unit 1.

Helping to uncover the root cause for the gadolinium precipitation event in Pickering Unit 7 in 2008. In addition, Dave made significant contributions to help develop a moderator cleaning process as well understanding and predicting the gadolinium behavior during the moderator refill.

Dave continues to work on a number of issues that are of great importance to the business, including chemical effects on ECI strainer performance.

In addition to his other commitments, Dave also delivers a 1-day course in Radiochemistry (PEL 28512) once or twice a year. This is a popular course judging by the fact that these sessions fill up very quickly.

In closing, I would like to congratulate Dave as a fellow alumnus from McMaster University. I fondly recall our time there during our graduate studies and have vivid recollections of our participation in the summer baseball leagues and visits to the local pubs after the games.

Well done Dave!

Frank V. Puzzuoli
Section Manager - Process Chemistry and Effluents
Chemistry, Metallurgy and Welding Department
Ontario Power Generation

Nick Burke Wins President's Award!

Dr. Nick Burke has received the President’s Award for Outstanding Service 2008. This Award recognizes employees for their outstanding contributions beyond those normally expected in their positions.

A Senior Research Associate in Dr. Stöver’s group in the Department of Chemistry, Dr. Burke won this Award for his willingness, dedication and expertise in helping students and researchers across campus further their work. This has rightly earned him the reputation of being a “go-to-guy” for polymer chemistry at McMaster.

Congratulations Dr. Nick!

Weian Zhao Receives Prestigious Postdoctoral Fellowship

Weian Zhao, a former Ph.D. student with Dr. Mike Brook and Dr. Yingfu Li, now at MIT, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, has recently received a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship from Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP).

It is a top Postdoctoral Fellowship that is internationally recognized. In fact, Weian was competing against candidates from around the world and is one of the 11 recipients for HFSP Cross-Disciplinary Fellowship in 2009.

Weian has also received, but subsequently declined, a postdoctoral fellowship awarded from NSERC in 2009.

SOUSCC Results

I am happy to announce that our 4th year students have once again done well at the SOUSCC conference (this year's conference was held this past Saturday). The following students presented talks and/or posters:

Maria Ivanova
Anne Marie Smith
Deborah Durbin
Matt Ponte
Natalie Wood
Kristen Soo
Sumaya Bakbak

Of these students, the following were award winners:

Maria Ivanova: 2nd place, Inorganic oral presentation, $100.00.
Kristen Soo: 3rd place, Physical/Theoretical oral presentation, textbook prize.

Door prize winners:
Maria Ivanova, free CSC membership.
Matt Ponte and Deborah Durbin, free textbook.

Congratulations to all of these students for participating and doing so well!
Alex Adronov, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Pippa Lock Wins MSU Teaching Award for Science

Last night at the 2008-2009 MSU Teaching Awards ceremony Pippa Lock was named the overall teaching award winner for the Faculty of Science. Congratulations to Pippa. Winners of these awards are selected by an MSU committee of students so it is especially gratifying to be selected as the best instructor in the Faculty by a student-based group.

The Faculty of Science has about 200 faculty members, many of whom are good instructors and a number who have won local and national recognition as superb instructors. To be selected as the best teacher from this group of excellent instructors is truly a major distinction.

Other nominees for a teaching award from Chemistry this year were Willie Leigh, Randy Dumont, Phil Britz-McKibbin and Jacques Barbier. I understand that there were more nominations across the Faculty but the MSU Committee did a pre-selection and whittled the number of nominees down to the above short list. Congratulations to the five Chemistry faculty for making the short list.

Chemistry has had a strong showing in recent years at the MSU Teaching Awards ceremonies. Over the past 8 years a Chemistry faculty member has won the top teaching award in the Faculty 4 times. In 2001-2002, Mike Brook was selected as the Faculty of Science Teaching Award winner and Pippa Lock was selected as winner of one of two Merit Awards that year. In 2003-2004, Pippa Lock was selected as the Faculty of Science Teaching Award winner while in 2006-2007, Fred Capretta took top honours for the Faculty.

Congratulations to Pippa and the four other Chemistry nominees for jobs well done.


Brian E. McCarry, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair

Chemistry Dept. Mourns the Passing of Dr. Alicja Mika


Dr. Alicja Mika, a long-time Research Associate with Ron Childs, passed away earlier this week. A memorial service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 19th (i.e., tomorrow) at Cattel Eaton & Chambers Funeral Home, 53 Main Street, Dundas. Many of you will remember Alicja from the many years she was in the department working in Ron Childs group.

Alicja was working for Natrix Separations in Burlington at the time of her death. This company evolved from another company which Ron Childs was instrumental in establishing based on polymer membrane separation work done at McMaster. The core membrane technologies which form the basis of the intellectual property of these companies can be traced back to key ideas and research contributions made by Alicja during her years at McMaster in Ron’s group . Alicja continued to make scientific contributions at Natrix until her untimely passing.


Brian E. McCarry, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair

4G9 Presentation Night

Last night's 4G9 presentation event went very well, and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the people that helped make it a success. First, the grad student volunteers: Christa Homenick, John Grande, Justin Hicks, Ruzni Hanifa, Ryan Chadwick, Patricia Edem, and Jason McIntee. I'd like to thank Willie Leigh for ensuring that we had the Hyperchem award in place. Also, I'd like to thank Harald Stover for getting the students off to a good start last semester and for help with setting things up.

Finally, I'd like to congratulate all the 4G9 students for outstanding performances, and announce that Maria Ivanova was this year's winner of the Hyperchem Award. Congratulations!!

Alex Adronov, Ph.D.

Chemistry & Chemical Biology
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