Have you met … Fred West?

On July 1, Fred West will step into the role of acting dean of the Faculty of Science.

Katie Willis - 09 June 2021

Meet Fred West, who is stepping into the role of acting dean in the Faculty of Science for a two-year term beginning July 1, 2021.

West originally came to the Faculty of Science in 2002 as a new faculty member in the Department of Chemistry. During the last 20 years, West has served as a professor, interim department chair, associate chair research, and vice-dean as well as co-director of the Cancer Research Institute of Northern Alberta—Translational Science Institute. 

In recent years, West has received the Rutherford Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the 2020 Bernard Belleau Award by the Canadian Society for Chemistry, recognizing his research program’s contributions to medicinal chemistry and improving human health.

Spend some time getting to know Fred West better. 

Tell us about the focus of your research program.

We are passionate about chemical synthesis and medicinal chemistry. The first involves inventing new ways to construct complex organic molecules from simple building blocks, and the second focuses on using the tools of chemistry to address problems in health science research.

What is your favourite course to teach? 

I’ve loved every course that I have taught, but the most fun for me is CHEM 363 (Advanced Organic Chemistry), because that’s my opportunity to expose undergraduate students to the reality that much of what they learned in earlier classes was wrong or grossly oversimplified, and thereby blow their minds.

What is the biggest strength/opportunity that you see for the faculty in the next year? 

Without a doubt, our greatest strength is our people: students, staff, and faculty. There are so many talented people in the Faculty of Science, and most of them are champing at the bit to get to work elevating us to a higher level.

What is your first memory at the U of A? 

Because my wonderful and talented wife is an Edmonton native, I visited the U of A many times before coming here for real. I remember being puzzled and alarmed by the pedways between buildings—what made those desirable or necessary? We moved here from Salt Lake City at the end of December, 2001, and then I figured out the answer.

What’s something that people might be surprised to learn about you?

I have played in several bands since high school. My first band (Fly and the Maggots) had devoted fans and even sold t-shirts with our logo.

Where is your favourite place on campus?

At the risk of being a little bit obvious, I would say the 5th floor of Chemistry West, where my labs and my amazing students and postdocs are found.

If you were enrolling in one course, program or degree right now, what would it be?

If I were starting over as a first-year student, chemistry for sure. If I could keep my chemistry training and start a new field of study, it would probably be computing science. (Note: two of my three kids are pursuing advanced degrees in computing science, so I get to enjoy their studies vicariously. The other one is a chemistry professor in the United States.)

What’s something your coworkers don’t know about you?

Two things: (1) I may seem laid back, but it took years of practice. I was something of a terror as a postdoc and assistant professor. (2) The most important thing I have ever done in Edmonton is marrying Dr. Christine Brzezowski in 1988.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Skip the pre-med part and go straight into chemistry.