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New head for Chemistry

Dr. Peter Pickup

By Kelly Foss

Dr. Peter Pickup is the new head of the Department of Chemistry. A University Research Professor and former deputy head of graduate studies and research, Dr. Pickup joined Memorial University in 1986.

Specializing in an area of research which involves the synthesis and development of new materials for use in electrochemical applications, Dr. Pickup has received support from fuel cell companies and funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to develop new materials for use in commercial fuel cells and other forms of electrocatalysis.

“One of my new interests is in the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide,” he said. “It would allow you to capture carbon dioxide and use a renewable source of energy such as photochemistry or hydro (electricity) to turn it into a fuel such as methanol or formic acid. I’m particularly interested in formic acid because I collaborate with a company that is developing formic acid fuel cells.”
The new head says the department is still contemplating its objectives for the next three years of his term.

“We’re currently undergoing academic program review, so future directions are still being discussed by the department,” he explained. “However, I think that sustainable development is certainly an area of focus which is of interest not only to myself, but to the department as a whole. That includes fuel cell research, photochemistry, green chemistry, environmental chemistry and renewable resources. We have good people working in those areas and we also have a strong department in terms of materials chemistry and computational chemistry.”

Dr. Pickup notes the department’s enrolment figures are strong, with approximately 20 faculty members responsible for over 80 graduate students.
“We have a very big graduate program,” he said. “It has doubled in size in the last five years and we are getting close to capacity in terms of our ability to host new graduate students doing laboratory research. Our undergraduate program is also growing. It’s a very healthy size when compared to other chemistry departments in Canada.”

It may not have been his initial plan to offer himself up for consideration as the new head, but Dr. Pickup believes that he was well prepared for the position.
“From my experience as deputy head, I was pretty familiar with what was going on in the department,” said. Dr. Pickup. “Dr. Bob Davis, the previous head, was really good in terms of consulting me regarding many issues in the department.”