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Meet the CIC chair: CIC executive director, Roland Andersson, MCIC, puts a few questions to the new CIC chair, Richard J. Puddephatt, FCIC.

You have experienced many changes in the chemistry profession and field over your career. What are the most significant changes in research chemistry over the past several decades?

"The most obvious changes in the mechanics of doing chemistry research are that the equipment is much more sophisticated than it used to be and that fast desktop computing has revolutionized the way that data are obtained and analyzed. The tools are much more powerful and they allow scientists to probe more complex questions and to solve them more quickly than was possible before.

The old sub-disciplines of chemistry (analytical, inorganic, organic, physical, theoretical) are being complemented by an array of newer ones such as materials chemistry, environmental chemistry and medicinal chemistry, and there has been tremendous growth in interdisciplinary research, especially at the interface with the biological sciences. Modern research is not easily compartmentalized.

Teams, consortia, networks, centres and so on have all been developed to provide the critical mass and the range of expertise and equipment needed to attack the most complex chemical and interdisciplinary problems and to react to changes in societal needs. As a result, collaborative research between universities or between universities, government laboratories and industry has grown apace.

These trends are likely to continue, but it should be added that individuals and small focused groups, such as a professor and a few talented graduate students in a university or a small research team in industry, still tend to produce the most revolutionary ideas and scientific breakthroughs."

Where must the chemical profession go in order to stay ahead? What must Canada do?

"Canada has done a lot of good things for scientific research in recent years. Changes at NSERC and NRC have been well received and the government has provided resources to support students and the new generation of research professionals, while the CFI has funded major equipment facilities. Canada is becoming more competitive as a research-intensive country and chemistry is recognized as being particularly distinguished. The chemical profession must continue to excel by successfully taking on the most challenging and ambitious projects, by acting in an entrepreneurial spirit when something potentially useful is discovered, and by making sure that the public knows when major innovations are made. Canada and the chemistry profession are on the right track and must work hard to keep up the momentum."

What role can the CIC play in leading these changes?

"The CIC represents the combined expertise of Canada's chemists, chemical engineers and chemical technologists and the members clearly want the institute to be effective in presenting a positive image of their disciplines. The CIC can do this in a limited way through its own publication, ACCN, but CIC must also continually enhance its role in lobbying government agencies on the members' behalf and in taking a public position on issues that are important to the members and making sure that the message reaches the Canadian public."

The CIC is a very active participant in both the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE) and the Canadian Consortium for Research (CCR) in the advancement of research issues to the federal government. What are the key messages that the chemical sciences must communicate?

"We have a very powerful message that chemistry is the central science and plays a key part in all of the developing technologies that underpin a knowledge-based economy. It is important to keep strong partnerships with PAGSE and CCR for promoting the importance of science, engineering and technology on a broader front. Any forward-looking government should make sure that Canada has the scientific and engineering infrastructure and must provide the grant support that is needed to educate the chemists, chemical engineers and technologists who will lead the next generation of advances. Both federal and provincial governments should continue to set policies aimed to make Canada the best place in the world for industries to operate major research-intensive activities and so to create high technology jobs and a prosperous future for these students.

The CIC Board approved a policy paper entitled 'Taking a Public Position on Issues Related to Chemistry' at its August 10, 2003 meeting in Ottawa. What are some of the key public issues on which the CIC should make a public statement?

"The CIC should only take a public position on issues where there is a consensus of opinion by the members. On more divisive issues, the CIC should encourage a vigorous scientific debate and provide a voice of reason. I think the members are united in wishing to support the teaching of chemistry throughout the school, college and university systems, to support research funding, to speak out for the safe usage of chemicals in society, and to promote the major chemical and chemical engineering industries."

The CIC has just introduced the 4th edition of the Laboratory Health and Safety Guidelines book. In your view, is there a 'safety culture' existing in most research and student laboratories today?

"Yes, safety is taken very seriously in all university, industry and government laboratories that I have visited and CIC and the constituent societies have been leading the way. The CIC process and safety management division plays an important role in promoting workplace safety. The book Laboratory Health and Safety Guidelines is an excellent guide to safe laboratory practice and a very useful textbook for short courses on this topic."

Outside of work-related activities and interests, describe your personal interests and passions inside the chemical community.

"It's not easy to separate work-related activities and interests within the chemical community. A university professor's life is largely consumed by teaching, research and university administration. I have always taken great pleasure from teaching and research and, semi-seriously, have had a life-long principle to never volunteer or apply for administrative work, but only to do what is asked and necessary to make the system work. I have to say that I have not been entirely successful in my non-administrative ambitions, but at least I can claim an almost perfect record in not being paid for administration. I have been happiest contributing volunteer service to research-related issues and scientific literature. I feel very strongly that non-profit journals are important in science, and I have enjoyed especially my work as editor for inorganic chemistry and then senior editor of the Canadian Journal of Chemistry. Similarly, I think it is important for Canadians to have a vibrant chemical community and I have enjoyed interacting and consulting with Canadian industries and serving the CSC and CIC. I spend a lot of time, as do all active scientists, refereeing papers and grant proposals, nominating colleagues for awards, promotions and so on and serving on grant, awards and fellowship panels. It's a particular pleasure to help young chemists get their first grants and then see them develop strong careers. Especially, I take a strong interest in the careers of my former students and really like to see them doing well."

What advice do you have for young people considering careers in the chemical field?

"First, that chemistry is an excellent field that is full of intellectual challenges and which can really make a difference in society, so it is a great career choice. After this, advice to a student entering any career is to work hard, be as creative as you can be, and be prepared to continue to read, learn and develop new skills throughout your career. Science moves on at a breathtaking pace, but it is an interesting ride."

Profiling Puddephatt

Richard J. Puddephatt, FCIC, Professor of Chemistry, University of Western Ontario, London, ON.

Dick Puddephatt was educated at University College London, graduating with the PhD in chemistry in 1968. He spent two years as a teaching postdoctoral fellow at the University of Western Ontario, and then moved back to the U.K. to join the faculty at the University of Liverpool. He returned to Western as professor of chemistry in 1978.

Dick Puddephatt's research interests are in organometallic chemistry and his honours include the Alcan Award and the E.W.R. Steacie Award of the CSC, the CIC Medal of The Chemical Institute of Canada, the Award for Chemistry of the Noble Metals and the Nyholm Lecture Award of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Florence Bucke Science Award, the Faculty of Science Research Professorship and the Hellmuth Prize of the University of Western Ontario. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, FRSC, a Fellow of the Royal Society, FRS, and holds a Canada Research Chair in chemistry.

Dick Puddephatt has served on the NSERC Chemistry and Collaborative Grant Selection Committees, the NSERC chemistry steering committee for reallocations, and as chair of the Polanyi Prize Awards Committee. He was editor for inorganic chemistry and is currently senior editor for the Canadian Journal of Chemistry. He has served the CSC as chairman of the inorganic division, director of awards and director for inorganic chemistry.
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Title Annotation:Interview
Author:Andersson, Roland
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Oct 1, 2003
Words:1479
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