Student Spotlight

Kate Stewart

Katherine Stewart completed her Bachelor of Science in Honours Chemistry at Wilfrid Laurier University in 2008 and worked with Prof. Ian Hamilton and Prof. Hind Al-Abadleh investigating arsenic and gold compounds using quantum chemical calculations (computational chemistry studies). She then chose to broaden her background and completed a Master’s of Applied Science in Chemical Engineering at the University of Waterloo in 2011 under the supervision of Prof. Alexander Penlidis, where she began her work on tailoring polymeric materials for gas sensors, specifically formaldehyde for indoor air quality sensors.

After her Master’s, she spent a year working as a research engineer for a local start-up developing ethanol sensors to monitor a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) in an effort to reduce drinking and driving. Katherine continued working part-time for the company during her PhD.

She completed her PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Waterloo under the supervision of Prof. Alexander Penlidis in September 2016. Her research focused on (i) tailoring polymeric materials for gas and aqueous sensors, and (ii) understanding how gas and aqueous analytes and sensing materials interact on a mechanistic level. Katherine has collaborated with groups from both System Design Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering, together creating complete sensors (sensing materials plus sensor platforms) that were both highly sensitive and selective.

Katherine’s multidisciplinary background of chemistry and chemical engineering has allowed her to tackle projects from multiple perspectives. Her research has focused on both application-driven polymers, while also improving the fundamental understanding (on a chemical and mechanistic level) of how and why certain materials perform better than others. By combining both approaches, Katherine has been able to create prescriptions that can be followed to more efficiently design polymeric sensing materials for a variety of applications.

To date, Katherine has 17 refereed journal publications, 3 refereed conference proceedings, and 25 international and national conferences. She has won awards for her poster presentations at both national and international conferences, including Best Poster Prize at Polymer Reaction Engineering IX and 2nd place overall in the poster competition at the AUTO21 Annual Conference, both in 2015.

Katherine is currently finishing a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Waterloo and has recently accepted a position as an Assistant Professor in Chemistry at Troy University in Alabama.