GradImpact: Better Living Through Chemistry

    Kori Andrea didn’t know how she would fare in graduate school. Though her parents are both public school teachers and had always valued education, the Memorial University student from Nova Scotia was the first person in her family to pursue a graduate degree. “The idea of graduate school was new,” she said in a recent interview, “especially being involved in research.”


    It was her passion for research, however, that led Andrea to pursue her doctorate in chemistry at Memorial University in Newfoundland. While pursuing her bachelor’s degree in chemistry, she fell in love with research. She enjoyed the intellectual challenges, meeting leading scholars, and traveling for conferences. “The decision to continue my research career by pursuing a PhD was an easy decision for me,” she noted, even though it meant being the first member of her family to enroll in graduate school.


    Since arriving at Memorial her research has flourished. Her PhD research focuses on using carbon dioxide (CO2) to design plastics “that can degrade and not pollute our oceans.” Early in her research she realized that though CO2 is inexpensive and easy to access, its stability means that it can only be made into plastics by applying high temperatures and pressures combined with an, often metal, catalyst. This production method is costly and risks metal contamination in the products. Andrea’s current research focuses on studying “a metal-free catalyst that is commercially available and capable of performing just as well if not better than the traditionally used metal catalysts.” The aim is to refine this catalyst to improve the types of plastics being produced and eliminate the possibility of metal contamination. Her long-term hope is that better catalysts will produce more biodegradable plastics that will allow for continued use of plastics in key industries without the damaging environmental impact.


    Her innovative research has already attracted widespread acclaim. In May 2018 she was awarded a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, which is the most prestigious award granted to a Canadian graduate student. She was also named Cape Breton University Young Alumni of the Year for 2018. In 2019, she received the NSERC Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement grant that allowed her to spend six months studying at Oxford University in England.


    Despite these awards, Andrea remains humble and focused on her research. Her work has thrived under the mentorship she has received at Memorial, but she realizes that it’s the student’s drive to succeed that defines their graduate career. “My main point of advice would be to follow your heart,” she concluded, “Take advice from others but remember [that] to succeed, especially in graduate studies you really have to enjoy what you are doing and hard-workers are rewarded.” 


    To learn more about Kori’s work visit the Memorial University website.


    Visit the GradImpact Feature Gallery to learn more about the amazing, innovative research being done by graduate students and alumni across the world.

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