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Chemistry at the University of Calgary.

The University of Calgary is currently celebrating its 25th year as an autonomous institution. Originally founded as a normal school and then a branch of the University of Alberta's Faculty of Education in the 1940s, the university moved to its present site in northwest Calgary in 1960, and gained full autonomy in 1966. We have added several faculties since that time, and have grown rapidly along with the city of Calgary. currently, the university has a full-time equivalent undergraduate enrollment of 20,000 students, and a graduate student enrollment of 2,500. With current annual research funding of over $60-million per year, the University of Calgary has established itself as one of Canada's leading teaching and research institutions.

The Department of Chemistry

The Department of Chemistry was one of the original departments to be established at the fledgling university. In 1960 it had four faculty members with active research programmes: Frank Adam (ESR spectroscopy), David Armstrong, FCIC (radiation chemistry), James Hyne, FCIC (physical organic and NMR chemistry), and Peter Krueger, FCIC, (infrared spectroscopy). Hyne became the first department head, followed by Krueger in 1966. Two graduate students moved to the main campus as well, Eric Ng and Robert Rumfeldt, MCIC. Rumfeldt received the first Phd degree to be awarded by the department. By 1966 when the University of Calgary achieved autonomy, the department had 17 faculty members, all with active teaching and research programmes. The department has continued to grow and mature, and today has 21 professors, four professors emeriti, and six instructors and professional associates on academic staff, along with 22 support staff.

The Undergraduate programmes

The department offers five programmes of study leading to degrees in chemistry (honours and majors), applied chemistry (honours and majors), and honours chemical physics. The applied chemistry degrees are awarded under a co-operative education programme, the first such programme offered at the University of Calgary. These extend over five years, include several work experience terms in industrial or government laboratories in Canada, as well as in other countries. The success of chemistry co-op degree programmes have helped to lead the way to the creation of many such programmes in various faculties at the university. A total of about 100 students are currently enrolled in our degree programmes. This number is growing as job opportunities in the chemical sciences expand in Western Canada.

The Graduate programmes

The department operates vigorous graduate degree programmes. To date, over 100 MSc degrees and 120 Phd degrees have been awarded. All professorial faculty members operate externally funded research, with a total funding level in excess of $2-million per year. Currently our graduate student enrollment stands at 57; 24 from various countries throughout the world, including England, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Kenya, Nigeria, Poland, South Africa, Switzerland, and The People's Republic of China. One quarter of our graduate students have held or currently hold scholarships, including the NSERC Postgraduate, Killam Memorial, Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority, Alberta Heritage Fund for Medical Research, and Department of Chemistry Scholarships. Some 25 post-doctoral fellows and research associates complete our research staff in the department. These researchers produced over 170 publications and conference papers in 1990, which is one reflection of the substantial productivity of these research groups.

Research Activities

Biological Chemistry: Armstrong, Viola Birss, MCIC, and Scott Hinman study rates and mechanisms of one and two electron transfer in biological systems. The structure, conformational flexibility, and vibrational dynamics of components of the natural pheromone system of bark beetles are determined by Hal Wieser, FCIC, and Elisabeth Dixon, MCIC, who also monitor the biological activity of such compounds as measured by laboratory and field bioassays, in order to establish the role of molecular structure and dynamics in the transduction of biological information. Penelope Codding, FCIC, correlates structural information with activity data to design new pharmaceuticals and therapeutic enzyme inhibitors, and to study the effect of mutations on the structures of proteins. Brian Keay, MCIC, and Thomas Back, MCIC, are developing new synthetic approaches to potential pharmaceutical agents and enzyme inhibitors. Reg Paul applies nonequilibrium statistical mechanics and electrodynamics to the electrical double layer on biological cell surfaces, and explores the long-range Frohlich potential and the role of solitons in transmitting biologically essential information.

Chemical analysis: Transport and spectroscopic properties of ion-containing polymer membranes form the research interests of Howard Yeager, MCIC, as are the analytical applications of ion-containing polymers. The ionic and solvent content of electrochemically-formed metal oxide films are determined by Birss, who further collaborates with Ronald Kydd, MCIC, and Hinman performing in situ FTIR studies of orientation of adsorbed organics at electrode surfaces, with Guojun Liu concerning fluorescence of the same systems, and William Laidlaw, FCIC, on electrochemical aspects of oscillations of mercury. Hinman develops and applies in situ spectroelectrochemical and electroanalytical techniques to studies of the redox behaviour of biologically important molecules.

Chemical Dynamics: Chemical dynamics in the liquid-phase are studied for various solvent systems and for temperature and pressure conditions which may extend to 400[degrees]C and 800 MPa. The thermodynamics, kinetics, mechanisms and transport properties of aqueous and organic systems are studied by Hyne and the kinetics and mechanisms of electrode reactions by Birss. Tom Swaddle, FCIC, and Yeager direct their attention to similar investigations for inorganic systems, while Armstrong investigates redox mechanisms of inorganic and organic free radicals. High-pressure studies in aqueous and non-aqueous solutions by Swaddle have led to activities in hydrothermal chemistry of technological and geo-chemical relevance, eg. with respect to aqueous silicate chemistry, as well as to the development of appropriate experimental techniques involving, for example, high-pressure NMR. The dynamics of carbonium ion chemistry is the concern of Ted Sorensen. The chemical dynamics of gas phase reactions including ionic and transient species is treated in the work of Gene Tschuikow-Roux and Raghav Yamdagni. Polymer-chain dynamics is studied by Liu. Kydd uses a combination of spectroscopic techniques and reactivity studies to investigate catalyst surfaces, the active sites they contain, and the processes which occur over them. Investigations of the effect of high pressure on organic and organometallic reactions form part of Keay's projects.

Structure: The detailed analysis of vibrational spectra and their structural implication is a feature of the work of Wieser, who also specializes in vibrational circular dichroism spectroscopy. IR, Raman, UV-visible, NMR, and X-ray crystallographic techniques are used separately or in concert, to address molecular structure and conformation in inorganic and organic systems by Back, Mike Benn, Mike Boorman, FCIC, Peter Clark, FCIC, Codding, Tristram Chivers, FCIC, Keay, Masood Parvez, Arvi Rauk, FCIC, and Sorensen.

Synthesis: Research in synthetic methods is the focus of the work of Back, Benn, Clark and Keay on organic compounds; by the work of Boorman and Chivers on inorganic molecules; and the work of Sorensen on organometallics. The research of Benn is directed in particular at the structure determination, synthesis, biogenesis mode-of-action of natural products of plants and insects of the surrounding prairie and mountain regions. The design and synthesis of novel steroid analogues, antibiotics and anti-cancer agents is studied by Back. Polymers or organic compounds, containing photosensitive components, are synthesized by Liu to explore their possible applications as opto-electronic devices. Keay focusses on developing new synthetic methodology and its application to the synthesis of natural products, as for instance Ambrox, Forskolin and halenaquinone in recent work. He further explores the use of palladium coordination compounds in asymmetric transformations. The work of Chivers involves electron-rich ring systems and polymers of nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur and selenium, especially with a view to exploiting their unusual structures and extraordinary electronic, optical and thermal properties for possible applications as conductors or ferromagnetic materials in the electronics industry, low-temperature elas-tomers, or precursors for ceramics. The synthetic inorganic work of Boorman focusses on the reactions of organosulphur ligands bound to transition metal complexes with the overall theme of applying new complexes as supported catalysts.

Theory: Rauk uses molecular orbital calculations for the correlation of structural and dynamic features of molecules and for the rationalization of reaction mechanisms and optical activity. Problems of chemical reactivity and catalysis using molecular orbital methods are treated by Tom Ziegler, MCIC. Rodney Truax, MCIC, studies exactly solvable quantum mechanical models using Lie theory methods. Codding uses molecular mechanics, molecular graphics and other computational chemistry approaches to develop receptor site models to aid the development of effective biological agents.

Alberta Oil Sands: Research concerned with the fundamental nature and recovery of hydrocarbons from the Alberta Oil Sands constitutes a major thrust in the department. It involves the activities of Boorman, Clark, Hyne, Kydd, and Sorensen. The work covers both basic and applied research in projects dealing with the elucidation of the chemical composition of oil sands bitumen, upgrading of oil sands bitumen for conversion into synthetic crude oil, and other potential products.

Energy and Industrial Chemistry: The chemistry of aqueous solutions at high temperatures and pressures relating to energy recovery and conversion problems is pursued by Swaddle, while Sorensen studies the chemical reactions occurring in the liquid products during thermal coking of bitumen. Kinetics and mechanisms related to electrocatalysis, batteries and corrosion, and photoelectrochemical studies of semiconducting electrodes constitute part of the work of Birss. Yeager investigates the properties of membranes used in electrolytic industrial processes. The utilization of molybdenum, tungsten and other transition metal complexes with sulphur containing ligands as homogeneous catalysts for dehydrosulphurization is of interest for Boorman and Clark. Boorman and Kydd develop and test new catalysts for hydrocracking processes.

Polymer Chemistry: Liu synthesizes novel polymers and tests for their optoelectronic and opto-magnetic properties or uses them for photophysical studies, while aiming theoretical work at the interpretation of newer experimental observations. The interests of Yeager include the structure-property relationships of ion containing polymers, especially their use as membrane devices.

Sulphur Chemistry: The study of sulphur and sulphur-containing compounds play a significant role in the research programme of Boorman, Chivers, Clark, and Hyne, who is also the research director of Alberta Sulphur Research Ltd. This company, a petroleum industry consortium, is located within the department and operates as a research partner with the university pursuing fundamental and applied studies related to sulphur technology associated with the production of natural gas and oil. For example, Clark and Hyne study the chemistry of hydrogen sulphide and sulphur in relation to problems of the natural gas and sulphur industry in Western Canada.

Transport: Flow in porous media and the evolution of deforming interfaces are studied by Laidlaw using computer simulations. The same methods are applied to problems of dispersion in biological systems, such as predator-prey relationships and the random migration of pest insects.

U of C Chemistry Reunion

As we reflect on the first quarter-century of the University of Calgary, we note that chemistry was an early leader here in the establishment of sound teaching and research programmes. Several chemists, most notably Armstrong, Hyne, and Krueger, helped to found and to shape this institution as administrators in addition to their contributions as scientists and teachers. As we quickly approach the time when we will award our 250th graduate degree, we look forward to the next 25 years of challenge and opportunity for our department and for the university. We are planning a reunion and banquet for all former students and staff from our department, to be held on Friday night and Saturday, October 18 and 19. We invite all interested parties to write or telephone us at 403-220-5341 for further details.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Wieser, Hal; Yeager, Howard
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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