UFV chemistry professor shepherds flock of students with incredible success
Visit UFV chemistry professor Noham Weinberg’s Molecular Modeling lab on any given day and you will usually find a familiar scene: A team of his most accomplished students, working away, one step closer to another discovery. There is an energy, a buzz that emanates from the room; these students are engaged, dedicated and jovial. They are clearly in their element and above all, they have nothing but gratitude and praise for their supervisor.
|Dr. Noham Weinberg|
Take Elna Deglint, for example. This chemistry major is in her last year at UFV and is deciding which graduate school to attend. The winner of multiple NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award scholarships, Deglint was also awarded a coveted NSERC post-graduate scholarship valued at over $17,000. “I don’t think I would be going to grad school without Noham” she tells me quite assuredly. Under Weinberg’s supervision, Elna presented at a number of conferences. She supervised two high school students, Sarah Reimer and Jason Ho, who are now first year science students and have also joined the Weinberg’s team.
Both Reimer and Ho won $4,000 entrance awards for their project in the Fraser Valley science fair last year. Reimer says that working with UFV researchers while in high school gave her the chance to tackle projects that were far more complex than anything her school textbooks had to offer.
The list of Weinberg’s students’ accomplishments is long. In the eight years since it was created, the lab has housed 32 undergraduate students from a variety of science departments. The same students have won a combined five NSERC Post-Graduate Scholarships, 10 NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards, and 12 UFV Undergraduate Research Excellence Awards.
What does Weinberg have to say about the success of his students? “I am just a shepherd; I watch over them. When I don’t watch them closely enough, they make discoveries,” he says. His students’ affection is evidently mutual. Weinberg takes great pride in their accomplishments and is adamant about the exponential benefits of student research: “Discovery is the best way to learn.”
When he is not working with his students, he is busy with his own research which is currently focused on the following five areas:
- The theory of chemical reactions in condensed media, including high pressure reaction kinetics, dynamic effects of viscous solvents, and chemical processes at extreme conditions.
- Molecular dynamic simulations of aqueous nanodroplets, including the stability of droplets and the effect of charge on crystallization.
- Interactions of gypsy moth pheromone with pheromone-binding proteins (PBP), including studies of pheromones in aqueous media and weak and strong pheromone-PBP complexes.
- Petroleum and its components at geochemical conditions, including thermodynamic stability of oil components, petrochemical reactions at elevated temperatures and pressures, and asphaltenes.
- Molecular dynamics simulations of ferroelectric crystals (student researcher: Jake Spooner; collaboration: Prof. Zuo Ye, SFU).
Supported by an NSERC Discovery grant, Weinberg has a number of projects on the go. This gives his students plenty of time to research independently. Liam Huber, another award-winning student, says that “the biggest skill I think you learn is autonomy in problem solving; you don't have friends working on the exact same questions you, so you really learn to sit down and systematically work through all sorts of problems by yourself.”
Read more�about Dr. Weinberg's research program.