Stand-out mineral scientist Jenine McCutcheon named 2024 MAC Young Scientist Award winner

Friday, May 24, 2024
Jenine McCutcheon sampling snow on the Greenland Ice Sheet
Jenine McCutcheon

The Mineralogical Association of Canada (MAC) has named Earth and Environmental Science assistant professor Jenine McCutcheon the winner of the 2024 Young Scientist Award. This award is given to a young scientist who has made a significant international research contribution in a promising start to a scientific career. 

As an emerging leader in the study of mineral–microbe interactions, Dr. McCutcheon studies mineral–microbe–water interactions from the sub-micrometer scale to landscapes, continents, and global biogeochemical cycles. She has developed a distinct approach that combines culture-based geomicrobiology with aqueous geochemistry and the mineralogical crystallographer’s toolbox of microbeam, diffraction and spectroscopy techniques. With one foot in the laboratory and the other in the field, Dr. McCutcheon conducts experiments and makes observations in both settings to gain greater insight into how the behaviour of microorganisms and minerals scales to control global phenomena.  

Using this approach, Dr. McCutcheon has made novel and high-impact contributions to areas such as the development of microbially accelerated CO2 mineralization as a technology for climate change mitigation; the fundamental understanding of how microorganisms repair reefs and beachrock to protect irreplaceable coastal habitats such as the Great Barrier Reef; the discovery that the mineralogy of dust controls algal blooms that affect the albedo, and therefore melting, of the Greenland Ice Sheet; and, the development of highly novel electron microscope techniques that preserve mineral–microbe associations in biofilms and microbialites as they were in vivo. 

Along with her research that oversees four students, she has also taught four undergraduate courses in the past three years, serves on multiple departmental committees, and has supervised seven honours students to completion since 2020. She coaches her students through field campaign designs, experiments and analyses, and has established a successful research team in a very short time. 

McCutcheon was nominated by Professor Sasha Wilson from the University of Alberta, and supported by University of Waterloo Faculty of Science professors Carol Ptacek and David Blowes (Earth and Environmental Science), and Associate Professor Anna Harrison (University of Bern) which was especially significant to McCutcheon because all have been mentors and collaborators during her career. 

Dr. McCutcheon’s award win was celebrated at the 2024 GAC-MAC Annual Conference in May, where she was presented with her award by nominator Sasha Wilson.