Chemistry professor wins national award for advances in polymer science

Friday, February 5, 2021

Congratulations to Professor Jean Duhamel of the Department of Chemistry, who was awarded the 2021 Macromolecular Science and Engineering Award by the Chemical Institute of Canada. The award is presented to an individual who “has made a distinguished contribution to macromolecular science or engineering.

Jean Duhamel
Professor Duhamel has been a long-time leader in the field of fluorescence techniques, particularly in studying very large polymers known as macromolecules. Macromolecules include everything from proteins and sugars to genes and synthetic rubber, with applications across medicine and the materials sciences.

“Duhamel is considered as a modern pioneer of the use of fluorescence spectroscopy techniques in polymer science,” says Professor Vassili Karanassios, who nominated Duhamel for the award. “His methods go far beyond designing novel methods for studying the properties of polymers. This research places him in a very special category of distinguished scientists.”

During his career at Waterloo, Duhamel and his students have shown that by tagging macromolecules with certain dyes and using fluorescence spectroscopy to study how short-lived, energy-emitting complexes called excimers are formed, they can reveal new and important information about very large polymers.

Duhamel’s research group applies these spectroscopic methods to answer fundamental questions involving synthetic polymers or polymers of biological importance. The applications are wide-ranging; one example includes the minimally-invasive health care sector. 

His key contribution to the field, however, has been to develop mathematical models that, when combined with excimer fluorescence results, allow chemists to describe the structure, conformation and dynamics of any macromolecule in unprecedented detail. His research has already led to new findings in the study of ill-defined macromolecules, including several natural biopolymers.

Duhamel has published more than 120 peer-reviews articles. His work has also been featured in reviews in top journals such as Langmuir (2012, 2014) and Macromolecules (2016).

In addition to an award ceremony and prize, Duhamel will give an invited lecture at the next annual Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition hosted by the Canadian Society for Chemistry.

Congratulations, Professor Duhamel!