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Chemical acclaim

Researcher honoured for pioneering scientific contributions

By Jeff Green

A chemistry professor at Memorial is “excited and surprised” to be named the 2019 recipient of the Canadian Green Chemistry and Engineering Award (Individual Winner), presented by the Chemical Institute of Canada.

The award recognizes an individual working in Canada who has made significant contributions to advance green chemistry and/or engineering, including the technical, human health and environmental benefits.

Dr. Fran Kerton is the second female and the only person outside of Ontario and Quebec to receive the honour.

“It is lovely to be recognized by the Canadian chemistry community in this way,” said Dr. Kerton, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science.

Dr. Fran Kerton’s research group uses equipment such as an inert-atmosphere workstation, also known as a glovebox, to manipulate catalysts that would otherwise react with oxygen and water in the air.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“I think the recognition reinforces and supports my thoughts regarding the role chemistry can play in the sustainability of our oceans. It is exciting that my peers think that my research, teaching and outreach in this field are making a difference and will lead to new innovations in sustainable development.”

‘Global reputation’

According to the institute, Dr. Kerton “enjoys a global reputation for her pioneering research on sustainable chemistry related to the oceans and has built significant collaborations with researchers in France, U.K., Singapore and the Canadian aquaculture industry.”

Here at Memorial, Dr. Kerton established the Green Chemistry and Catalysis Group, where she is developing environmentally friendly technologies to reduce plastic pollution and food waste generation.

“On the personal side, this award is important as it makes me feel at home in this country.” — Dr. Fran Kerton

Her research focuses on understanding how carbon dioxide and waste from fish processing, such as mussel shells, can be used to make new materials.

“We are also developing methods for assessing the degradation of materials including plastics in seawater with an aim to design materials with less risk of polluting the environment,” she said. “My research students, both graduate and undergraduate student, have made significant contributions to my research over the years and so this award is also recognition for their contributions.”

Recruiting and retaining

Dr. Kerton says she feels the national honour will help put the green chemistry and catalysis group at Memorial on the international map.

“It will help the university in terms of attracting talented researchers including junior faculty, graduate students and international visitors to work with my group and other groups on research related to the environment and efficient resource use,” said Dr. Kerton, who first came to Canada on a working visa as a post-doctoral researcher.

She became a Canadian citizen about 10 years ago.

“On the personal side, this award is important as it makes me feel at home in this country and that I am part of the chemistry community here. Hopefully, it will lead to more invitations to collaborate and to participate in conferences and discussions in this area.”

The Chemical Institute of Canada is a national not-for-profit organization committed to advancing the chemical sciences and engineering through its three constituent societies.

Dr. Kerton will receive her award during the 102nd Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition, taking place in Quebec City from June 3-7.

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