Research in Science

For a number of years, the Department of Chemistry has run a successful program of research and research training in the fields of biochemistry, organic chemistry, molecular modeling, and environmental chemistry. 

Cory Beshara

Dr. Cory Beshara has held a tenure-track Assistant Professorship at UFV over the past four years, with a concurrent adjunct position at UVic.  His current research interests in molecular recognition and bioanalytical chemistry is the result of a broad chemical education beginning with a BSc in biochemistry with a biotechnology option (2000) where, in addition to general exposure to molecular biological techniques, he developed a penchant for organic synthesis. Cory then began a very successful PhD with Alison Thompson at Dalhousie University in 2001 where he became an expert in pyrrole chemistry, publishing six papers. During the course of his PhD, Cory undertook a student exchange at Cardiff University in Wales, UK under the supervision of Nicholas Tomkinson. The exchange was three months in duration and garnered two first-author publications and technology transfer of reagents to Sigma-Aldrich chemical company (catalogue number 669407 and 669393). Three post-doctoral positions in medicinal chemistry (2006 with DF Weaver, Dalhousie), molecular recognition (2007-2009 with F Hof, UVic), and protein engineering (2009-2010 with RE Campbell, U Alberta) allowed a further four publications concerning molecular recognition and physical organic chemistry. Cory is applying his knowledge broadly with experience in pyrolytic plastic decomposition to fuel oil, which was supported by an NSERC Engage grant (joint with Noham Weinberg); and, the synthesis of ion recognition motifs that will be applied to a broad range of interests from medicinal targets, to agriculture and the environment, to high-pressure studies aimed at understanding molecular recognition in living systems in the ocean deep.  During his time at UFV Cory has supervised a number of undergraduate student researchers.

Godwin Choy

The Interaction between Bi(III) and Au electrode

My research interest is to study the interaction between Bi(III) and different noble metals such as Au, theoretically.  In aqueous solution, Bi(III) exhibits different cationic forms depending on the pH values of solutions.  Bi(III) ultrathin layer are adsorbed on the surface of the noble metal and changes the electrocatalytic activity of electrodes significantly.

David Fenske

Dr. David Fenske, whose research involves lipid nanoparticles and their applications in drug delivery, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry at UFV where he has taught for the last 9 years. Prior to that David  was a Research Associate in the Liposome Research Unit headed by Prof. Pieter Cullis at UBC, before which he spent two years studying membrane NMR at the National Research Council of Canada.  He completed his Ph.D. in Chemistry (Biochemistry) at Simon Fraser University in 1998, where he studied membrane NMR and the properties of the human plasma lipoproteins.  The focus of David’s current research program involves the generation of lipid nanoparticles, and maximizing the uptake and retention of chemotherapeutic agents.  Current projects involve lipid nanoparticles containing novel new cholesterol-containing synthetic lipids, and the surfactant sarkosyl, as well as measurements of the trapped volume of lipid nanoparticles by atomic absorption spectroscopy. David’s research on environmentally friendly solvents for remediation of petroleum-contaminated soils was supported by an NSERC Engage grant (joint with Noham Weinberg). David has published 25 papers in peer-reviewed journals, and 13 review articles on lipid nanoparticles as drug delivery systems, the use of pH gradients in drug-loading and transbilayer transport, and the functional roles of lipids in membranes.  He supervised numerous research students at UBC and UFV. 

Jason Thomas

Dr. Jason Thomas received his B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.  For his Ph.D. research on the mechanisms of catalytic nucleic acids, he was awarded the Boehringer-Ingelheim Award by the Canadian Society for Chemistry, which recognizes annually the top Canadian Ph.D. thesis across the fields of organic and biological chemistry.  As a postdoctoral research fellow at Simon Fraser University, he worked on the development of a new class of DNA-based electrochemical sensors for disease biomarkers.  Since becoming a faculty member at UFV in 2012, Jason has established an independent research program that involves undergraduate student researchers. Currently, his research is focused on discovering new catalysts made out of DNA, called DNAzymes.  DNAzymes behave much like protein enzymes in that they can catalyze chemical reactions of medicinal, biological, or synthetic interest. The famous information storage/transfer capabilities of DNA make the process for DNAzyme discovery generally more straight-forward than is the case for the discovery of new protein enzymes. Unfortunately, from a chemical perspective, DNA is not well-equipped with functional groups that can facilitate efficient catalysis. To improve upon the inferior catalytic properties of natural DNA, we are synthetically modifying it by introducing protein-like functional groups to aid in catalysis. Students participating in this research will learn concepts and techniques in bioconjugate chemistry, molecular biology, enzymology, and catalysis.

DNAzymes: Catalysts made out of DNA

New catalysts made out of DNA are quite easily produced thanks to the unique information storage capabilities of DNA.  However, DNA is not well-equipped, in terms of chemical structure, to perform catalysis efficiently.  Our goal is to improve upon the catalytic abilities of DNA by adding synthetic chemical structures to it that are useful in various catalytic reactions.

Noham Weinberg

Dr. Noham Weinberg received his M.Sc. in physical chemistry and Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry in Moscow and has been a member of the UFV Chemistry Department since 1994. He was a visiting scientist at the University of Vienna, Princeton University, and University of Oita, Japan and has been an Adjunct Professor with the Department of Chemistry, SFU since 1994. He has supervised and co-supervised a number of graduate and undergraduate students at UFV and SFU and is the director of the UFV Molecular Modeling Lab, which over the past ten years housed more than 60 undergraduate student researchers, many of whom continued as graduate students at various Canadian universities. Noham’s research focuses on computer modeling of chemical reactions and equilibria with a specific interest in the properties of chemical and biochemical systems at elevated temperatures and pressures. His research has been supported by NSERC Discovery and Engage grants (the latter jointly with David Fenske and Cory Beshara) and enabled by the use of the WestGrid supercomputer facilities. He has been involved in a number of research collaborations, nationally and internationally. Noham is a recipient of the 2013 UFV Research Excellence Award.


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