Chemistry student wins best research poster award at national conference

June 21, 2012 - 8:22am

Vancouver Island University chemistry student Dane Letourneau received top honours at the 2012 Canadian Society for Chemistry conference in Calgary this month.

His poster, entitled Photodechlorination Kinetics of Trace Contaminants in Natural Waters Using Membrane Introduction Mass Spectrometry as an In-Situ Reaction Monitor, won best undergraduate student poster award in the environmental division.

Letourneau received a $250 prize. He also received a travel grant from VIU’s Student Travel and Research committee to help cover expenses to attend the conference.

“It’s a great honour to be chosen,” said Letourneau. “There were certainly a lot of excellent poster presentations in the environmental chemistry division. It was an action-packed hour and a half and I was happy to have lots of interested and eager visitors to my poster. It was a great opportunity to meet people in this field of research, including potential graduate project supervisors, and make connections.”

Letourneau is an undergraduate researcher with the Applied Environmental Research Laboratories (AERL) at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo working as part of a larger group funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

“Under the excellent supervision of Dr. Erik Krogh and Dr. Chris Gill, co-directors of the AERL, I have had an immense number of opportunities to expand my abilities as a researcher, especially in the area of environmental chemistry,” he said.

“As a team member in the AERL, I’ve been privileged to take part in several conferences such as the International Water Association’s 2011 specialty conference on Natural Organic Matter (NOM) in Costa Mesa, California, American Society for Mass Spectrometry 2012 in Vancouver, and now the CSC 2012 in Calgary. These have all been excellent learning experiences.”

His research was made possible by two NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards that provided summer employment in the AERL over the past few years.

Letourneau’s project currently focuses on the degradation mechanisms of trace contaminants exposed to sunlight in natural waters.

His award-winning poster elaborated on this subject, presenting data on the photo-degradation rates of several environmental contaminants in the presence of natural organic matter and light. The work is the first direct measurement of this environmentally relevant process and represents a potential decontamination strategy.

Letourneau plans to complete his Bachelor of Science degree (double minor in biology and chemistry) next year and then pursue the field of environmental chemistry at graduate school.

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