U of Alberta researchers win Canadian Society of Chemistry award

A one-of-a-kind Canadian research group, based in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta, has now won every award handed out by the Canadian Society of Chemistry for analytical and environmental chemistry.

Chris Le, Xingfang Li and Jonathan Martin, faculty members of the Division of Analytical and Environmental Toxicology in the Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology, have all been recognized by this national scientific society for their respective research programs. The division is the only one in Canada to apply the basic science of chemistry and toxicology to study human health and environmental factors that affect human health.

Prof. Chris Le has won two awards for distinguished work in both analytical chemistry and in environmental chemistry. His work focuses on two areas, the first being to develop highly sensitive techniques that can measure contaminants and molecules in trace amounts. This development could mean health-care providers will be able to detect potential disease indicators far earlier than techniques used now. His other area of expertise is in environmental chemistry and monitoring of arsenic exposure in humans, including from well water in rural areas.

Associate Prof. Jonathan Martin has won an early career award for his work on sources of perfluorinated compounds, and remediation of toxic oilsands tailings water. He has developed analytical techniques which provide a new window to observe how perfluorinated compounds, some of which are carcinogens, move around the world and into humans. For tailings water, his group has validated ways to accelerate the detoxification of this complex mixture. And using high-resolution mass spectrometry, he is able to identify if toxins are entering the Athabasca River due to industrial activity.

Associate Prof. Xingfang Li focuses on byproducts from disinfected water that can lead to an increased risk of bladder cancer. She's hoping to identify which byproducts lead to this type of cancer. Her group has also developed a way to monitor tiny bacteria previously undetected by regulatory agencies. (Li was honoured by the Canadian Society of Chemistry in 2010.)

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