New sustainable science program in Hamilton 'believed to be first in Canada'

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McMaster University announced the launch of a new program that the school believes is the first of its kind in Canada.

The honours sustainable chemistry program will be offered this fall and has been designed to prepare students to help build a zero-carbon economy by working with materials in a more environmentally friendly way.

"Chemists need to practise environmental stewardship," says Michael Brook, Faculty of Science chair in sustainable silicone polymers and one of the faculty members who will teach in the new program. "Our stewardship needs to start in labs and classrooms and continue into the chemical industry. I'm embarrassed to admit that for much of my career, I didn't know where the materials I worked with came from and wound up as waste. Students today are asking these questions, expecting better answers and wanting to be part of the change."

The program was developed by the department of chemistry and chemical biology within the Faculty of Science and builds on a popular minor in sustainability.

The university says the program was developed as a direct response to growing interest from students, industry, and government partners.

"In the decades ahead, chemists will be counted on to make key contributions in building a sustainable green economy," says Brook. "Graduates from our program will know how to identify and implement better ways of practising chemistry and applying their knowledge to the production, use and recycling of the everyday products that we all rely on."

The curriculum was developed by Brook, Paul Harrison, Kylie Luska, Gillian Goward and Salina Jaffer.

"Sustainable chemistry brings together the concepts of green chemistry as well as renewable energy and life cycle impact assessment for the full gamut of products from electric vehicles through to pharmaceuticals," says Goward, chair of the department of chemistry and chemical biology.

"One of the most interesting concepts we've incorporated into our curriculum is 'endangered elements' - those rare elements that are key to our portable electronics, wind turbines and electric motors. As we move to a zero-carbon future, chemists have an important role to play in evaluating and improving the processes and products needed to realize this shift to a green economy."

Students can choose from a four-year program or a five-year program with four paid co-op work terms.

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