Nyhenflore Delva’s interest in sustainable chemistry began during her undergraduate studies as she explored ways to mitigate negative environmental impacts. She learned that adopting more sustainable industrial chemical processing could provide many benefits. As Delva researched graduate studies at various universities, she wanted a program that involved world-class research that was industry-orientated and decided to apply to the Master of Science in Chemistry program at the University of Waterloo.

Her supervisor in the Department of Chemistry is Dr. Anna Klinkova, and her research group focuses on catalyst fabrication and the development of electrochemical systems for sustainable reactions such as CO2 reduction and electrolysis of wastewater contaminants. Delva is often introduced to new technologies that work on adopting more sustainable industry practices and improvements to current technologies that maximize efficiency. “I am exactly where I wanted to be,” she says.

Can you describe your research and the wider implications it can have on society or industry?

My research focuses on the electrolysis of nitrogenous waste and other wastewater contaminants—this includes everything from system design to catalyst design. Currently, much of my research is on using nickel hydroxide to oxidize urea, a common wastewater contaminant. By pairing urea oxidation with a high-value process such as CO2 reduction to valuable carbon-based products, it’s possible to create a system that combines wastewater treatment with fuel generation or the synthesis of high-value materials.

The idea of a dual-purpose system like this is exciting since it could mitigate our effects on the environment by limiting waste.

What is the working relationship like with your supervisor, Dr. Klinkova?

When applying to graduate studies, I knew I wanted a very present supervisor. I like being able to ask for help or feedback easily and knowing that I have a good support system research-wise. Dr. Klinkova has far exceeded my expectations. She is very supportive of both my research and professional goals. I have learned a lot as both a researcher and an academic, thanks to her, and I am excited to see what else I am capable of.

What are you looking forward to in the future regarding your studies? 

I’m working on a side project right now, focusing on the degradation of dioxane in both the cathodic and anodic compartments of an electrochemical system. I’ve been running into issues with catalyst design, but I think I finally have it down. Hopefully, I’ll have a finalized system and paper by the holidays. Fingers crossed!

What do you enjoy about living in Waterloo Region?

I’m from Toronto, so I’m used to big-city living. However, I like how Waterloo’s size makes day-to-day living much easier. What would be an hour’s commute in Toronto is 20 minutes here. I’ve been loving the amount of farmer’s markets and artisan shops around—you can often find me at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market on Saturdays grabbing a box of apple fritters.

Nyhenflore in Chemistry 2 building

Nyhenflore Delva (she/her)
Master of Science (MSc) in Chemistry student