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The Department of Chemical Engineering is proud to announce the appointment of two of its faculty members as Canada Research Chairs (CRC). The designation of Canada Research Chair is an honour bestowed upon exceptional emerging researchers. Professors Valerie Ward and Tizazu Mekonnen are both trailblazers in their respective fields.

Ward now holds a CRC in Microalgae Biomanufacturing. Her research group uses microalgae to make a variety of products.

Last month, negotiators and interested parties met in Ottawa for the INC-4 to discuss progress on a plastics treaty. A delegation of plastics and microplastics experts from the Water Institute at the University of Waterloo participated with special accreditation from the UNEP. Professor Elisabeth Prince was part of that delegation.

“We had the opportunity to share our expertise in the emerging technologies for mitigating the plastic waste crisis with key decision-makers,” says Prince.

Prince has expertise in synthetic polymer chemistry and polymer science. The delegation from the Water Institute hoped to lend their scientific knowledge to ensure the treaty was well-informed by science because there were many parties with many different interests and motivations throughout the negotiation.

Professor Tizazu Mekonnen has been awarded the Macromolecular Science and Engineering Division (MSED)  Early Career Instigator Award. The award is sponsored by NOVA Chemicals.

This honour is bestowed upon researchers who have made substantial contributions to the polymer industry, aligning perfectly with Mekonnen's disruptive research in polymer engineering and sustainability.

Mekonnen spearheads a dynamic research program focusing on material sustainability. His initiatives range from developing polymers sourced sustainably to creating compostable plastics, crafting eco-friendly nanomaterials, and exploring low-carbon alternatives.

The ubiquitous nature of plastic pollution in our environment is an alarming concern. The breakdown of plastics into smaller sizes, ranging from micro- to nano-sized material, raises concerns about their toxicity to the environment and humans. The impact of nanoplastics, which are a thousand times smaller than microplastics on fish, marine life and human life is under intense investigation, however, mitigating options are quite limited.

A team of researchers led by Chemical Engineering Professor Tizazu Mekonnen, at the University of Waterloo, have leveraged their expertise in polymer engineering to tackle this critical challenge. Mekonnen’s research is in polymer sustainability, and it endeavours to reduce the carbon footprint of the plastics industry.

Dr. Elisabeth Prince is a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering who is working on a solution to the challenge of non-degradable and non-recyclable plastics. Her innovative research in advanced materials has the potential to make a significant impact on sustainability and environmental remediation. It also supports Canada's aim of achieving zero plastic waste by 2030.

The highest honour for graduates in the Faculty of Engineering is the Alumni Achievement Medal. Baoling Chen, who completed her PhD in Chemical Engineering in 2015 was bestowed this honour in recognition of her exceptional talent for strategic industry partnership development, mission-driven leadership, and disruptive biotechnology research.

The third Sustainable Future Perspectives' discussion was held in November and hosted by the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology (WIN) and the Department of Chemical Engineering. The November event centered on how research and training at the University of Waterloo can contribute to several vital areas in the circular economy. These areas include recycling battery materials, researching new materials to create better batteries, and developing proactive solutions to mitigate delays in setting up new mines.