UAlberta sweeps the podium at regional chemistry conference

Undergraduate students bring home six awards for exceptional presentations.

Katie Willis - 16 May 2018

The presentations were the culmination of a year's work of research, and received honours earlier this month at the Western Canada Undergraduate Chemistry Conference (WCUCC).

"Our undergraduates are the trailblazers for the next generation of chemists in the natural sciences," said Vladimir Michaelis, assistant professor of chemistry and supervisor for two of the award winners.

"Winning six awards in four different disciplines (organic, inorganic/materials, physical, and biochemistry/chemical biology) demonstrates that they are able to convey the bigger picture and also explain the intricacies of their own project. Our students are well prepared in terms of not only the hard science and technical skills, but also soft skills, such as public speaking, key attributes for their future careers."

Access to inspiration

For Maria Matlinska, an undergraduate student studying with Michaelis, attending the WCUCC reminded her of why she began studying science in the first place. "I find it fascinating how curiosity can spark our creativity, leading to improvements and advances for future generations," said Matlinska, who won best talk in physical chemistry in 2017 and runner-up in 2018. "Doing research is my main source of motivation and excitement about chemistry."

Matlinska's fellow student, Tony Jin, described the experience as happy, but humbling. "Attending conferences not only allows you to meet new people and make connections that you may collaborate with in the future, but it can also let you witness some extraordinary stuff people are doing all over the world," said Jin, who won best talk in physical chemistry at this year's event.

Matlinska and Jin were joined by four fellow undergraduate students, Alexandra Predy, I Teng Cheong, Wenyu Qian, and Abhi Aggarwal, all in their third or fourth year of the undergraduate chemistry program.

"The conference was really awesome, especially because I think it really enhanced my experience as an undergrad at the U of A," added Predy, winner of best presentation in inorganic chemistry. "Not only did I get to meet some really amazing people, but I was also able to hear different perspectives on various topics in chemistry. I believe this is really important as an undergrad because the more perspectives on a particular issue we hear early on in our career, the better we will be at solving difficult problems later."

"The Department of Chemistry wants to provide the best possible teaching and research training environment for undergraduates, so that they can go on to graduate school or industry and be competitive," said Michaelis.

Michaelis is joined by his colleagues Florence Williams, Jon Veinot, Robert Campbell, and Rylan Lundgren, who also supervised the award-winning students.