Department of Chemistry, University of Toronto
U of T Chemistry News

This Molecular World – Learn How Chemistry is Proving to be the Solution Outside of the Lab

By Nina Rafeek

This Molecular World on Thursday June 1st, 5pm, Metro Toronto Convention Centre This Molecular World

When the average person thinks of chemistry, it wouldn’t be unusual to think of lab coats, beakers and Bunsen burners, but on June 1st, 2017, the speakers of This Molecular World will tell us how chemistry is having a global impact. From healthcare for refugees and crises in aquaculture to reversing blindness and even the social implication of fake news and pseudoscience, these world class chemists are working to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. The Science and Engineering Engagement team at the U of T had a chance to meet three of the five speakers. Here is a sneak peek of some of the ideas Professors Gilbert Walker, Molly Shoichet and Aaron Wheeler will speak about.

Gilbert Walker - Eco-Friendly Salmon Farming

Gilbert Walker

Professor Gilbert Walker of the University of Toronto grew up in part in a small fishing village in Nova Scotia. As a young teenager, he began spending his summers working in the commercial fishing industry. From that time, in the late 1970’s, otherwise known as the “boom time” in commercial fishing, to today, he has witnessed the extensive depletion of fish from their natural habitat. “All of the fish were gone […] they were dragged out of the ocean,” said Professor Walker. Aquaculture has now evolved into fish farming. Professor Walker will explain how the collapse of wild fish harvests have been partially replaced by fish farming, the animals health risks and the financial waste associated with it and how these problems can be solved with chemistry. Regarding his talk on June 1st, Professor Walker is excited about the opportunity to talk about the health of our oceans. “I want to communicate what we are learning, and describe some ecofriendly alternatives to historical aquaculture practices, that improve the lives of the farmed fish and health of their ocean environment,” Walker said.

Professor Aaron Wheeler - Hacking Healthcare in a Refugee Camp

Aaron Wheeler

Professor Aaron Wheeler is a proud immigrant to Canada, and wanted to do something to help immigrants in other parts of the world. He will explain how overcrowding, malnutrition and lack of medical care in refugee camps leaves the population vulnerable to infectious disease, such as measles and rubella. Professor Wheeler will explain how he and his group used their expertise with analytical chemistry to bring healthcare to refugee camps, starting with the Kakuma refugee site in northwest Kenya. Wheeler will show how he and his team have used ‘hacker’ and ‘open source’ technologies to keep the cost of their chemistry-based instruments incredibly low and therefore accessible to some of the most vulnerable populations in the world to infectious disease.

Professor Molly Shoichet – Making Change: Shaping the Future of Medicine

Molly Shoichet

Professor Molly Shoichet is a Professor of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry and holds the NSERC Canada Research Chair at the University of Toronto. In the context of the past, present and future of healthcare, Professor Shoichet will begin with a simple but loaded question: “What if we didn’t ask questions?” Professor Shoichet will explain how she and her team are continuing the legacy of challenging dogma in healthcare. They have invented chemistry based solutions to stop – and potentially reverse – disease, including blindness and stroke: “By asking questions, we have come up with better therapies,” said Professor Shoichet. Learn how Professor Shoichet is working to deliver their promise of regenerative and personalized medicine.

Sir Martyn Poliakoff, Professor of Chemistry from the University of Nottingham, UK and Professor Joe Schwarcz from McGill will also be speaking at the June 1st event.

Chemistry is everywhere. Discover how innovations in chemistry is colliding with the present and changing the future. Do not miss this evening of fascinating ideas at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Thursday, June 1st at 5 pm. Tickets are free but you must register here.

This Molecular World is brought to you by the Canadian Society for Chemistry and the University of Toronto, Science and Engineering Engagement and the Department of Chemistry.