Student Spotlight

Professor Alison Scott

Alison Scott first became interested in polymers in high school – a chemistry project on polytetrafluoroethylene caught her attention, as she began to learn about the benefits and challenges associated with developing polymeric materials. This led her to join the University of Waterloo as a Chemical Engineering student in 2008, where she completed two co-op terms at the Institute of Polymer Research under the supervision of Prof. Alex Penlidis. During these co-op placements, she worked to better understand the crosslinking kinetics and network homogeneity of crosslinked polystyrene synthesized via nitroxide-mediated radical polymerization.

Alison remained at the University of Waterloo for her graduate studies, where she continued her research under the supervision of Prof. Alex Penlidis. During her MASc, she focused on the polymerization kinetics of water-soluble copolymers and terpolymers. As she began her PhD, her research became a broader investigation related to the design of polymeric materials for target applications. In particular, she focused on developing relationships between pre-polymer formulations, polymerization conditions, polymer properties, and application performance in an effort to tailor-make materials with specific desirable characteristics. The design framework that was developed as a part of this research was successfully applied to two case studies: water-soluble polymers for enhanced oil recovery (polymer flooding) and polymeric sensing materials for gas detection.

After her PhD and a brief postdoctoral fellowship, Alison joined Dalhousie University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Process Engineering and Applied Science. Alison’s research team at Dalhousie continues to rely on a statistically-informed design approach for the development of novel materials; applications include polymer flocculants, biomedical materials, and climate-friendly packaging. 12/23

Professor Alison Scott

Alison Scott

Alison Scott

Dr. Remi Casier

Remi Casier obtained his Bachelor of Science in Honours Chemistry at the University of Waterloo in 2013. During his fourth-year project in Jean Duhamel’s lab, Remi utilized fluorescence-based techniques to study the internal dynamics of polymers in solution. In conjunction with an industrial sponsor, Remi completed his Master’s degree in 2015 with Profs. Mario Gauthier and Jean Duhamel at Waterloo, where he developed a novel technique utilizing fluorescence to quantify the diffusion of polymer chains during the coalescence of latex films.

Continuing in Jean Duhamel’s lab for his PhD, Remi began shifting his research interest to focus on biological macromolecules. He wondered if proteins, given their vast complexity, would obey the same behavioural trends observed in much simpler synthetic polymers in solution. Using polypeptides, constituting mixtures of one, two, or three different types of amino acids, Remi characterized the effects different amino acids had on the local structure and chain dynamics of folded and unfolded polypeptides. Utilizing the relationships discovered between amino acid composition and local chain dynamics, Remi began developing a blob-based model (BBM) to provide insight into how proteins fold. By the time Remi completed his PhD in 2021, he had found a set of simple rules governing polypeptide chain dynamics. After the incorporation of these rules, the BBM could directly predict the folding times of proteins based solely on their primary amino acid sequence.

Remi currently has 16 publications in peer-reviewed journals. He has won multiple awards during his graduate studies, including the Institute for Polymer Research Scholarship in 2018, the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology Nanofellowship in 2019, the W.B. Pearson Medal, and the MSED Graduate Award in Polymer Chemistry in 2021 for the research completed during his Doctoral studies. Along with regular conference participation, Remi has also given seminars on protein folding and fluorescence at Waterloo.

At the end of 2021, Remi began a post-doctoral fellowship in Prof. Gilad Haran’s group at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Currently holding an Azrieli International Fellowship, Remi is using single-molecule spectroscopy to study the ultrafast conformational dynamics of protein nanomachines. In this cutting-edge field of research, Remi is applying his knowledge of polymer science to understand the molecular-level motions of proteins and relate how these microscopic motions translate into the functional proteins we observe in our macroscopic world.  09/23

Dr. Remi Casier

Photo of Remi Casier

Remi Casier

Dr. Janine Lydia Thoma

Janine Lydia Thoma completed her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry at the University of Waterloo in 2014. She completed her fourth-year research project in Jean Duhamel’s laboratory where she characterized first and second generation pyrene labeled dendrons. After learning about polymer synthesis and characterization during her fourth-year project, Janine was very motivated to dive into this field and began her Master of Science in polymer chemistry in the Duhamel lab in 2015. 

Her Master’s thesis project involved the synthesis and solution characterization of a series of polymers with a polymeric bottle brush (PBB) architecture. This project was intriguing since PBBs are utilized in different biological applications, specifically as drug delivery carriers, and the project seemed to combine the knowledge she gained during her BSc with her current MSc program. After her first year, Janine applied for a direct transfer to the doctoral program and in 2016 she began her PhD in polymer chemistry. Her PhD focused on characterizing polymers with complex architecture, including dendrimers and polymeric bottle brushes, using fluorescence. Her graduate studies allowed her to develop a handful of new skills, including monomer and polymer synthesis, macromolecular characterization, experience in general laboratory organization and maintenance, and mentorship. 

After the completion of her doctorate, Janine moved to Zurich Switzerland to start a new position as a post doctoral researcher at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa). She joined the Cellulose and Wood Materials Laboratory where she was co-supervised by Dr. Mark Schubert and ETH professor Dr. Ingo Burgert. In this new position, Janine was responsible for writing and applying for grants, facilitating relationships with industry members, and conducting her own research in the field of on-demand adhesive debonding. In her current project, she is interested in tackling sustainability in the construction industry. Specifically, Janine is responsible for synthesizing a stimuli responsive structural adhesive to facilitate the recycling of engineered wood beams. 09/23

Dr. Janine Lydia Thoma

Photo of Janine Lydia Thoma

Janine Lydia Thoma

Professor 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. 09/17