Keynote Lecture

From Student Leader and Equity Activist to Dean of Science: Advocating for EDI in the Chemical Sciences

We are taught that Chemistry is supposed to be an objective field - in theory one that should not differentiate based on irrelevant characteristics. But the experience of students and faculty members is not objective. In recent years, we have seen many examples of inequities and intolerance, from the heartbreaking accounts in the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to the increased levels of racism and xenophobia and the challenges faced by folks of diverse gender identities. In order to make our institutions fully inclusive is it important that we listen and pay attention to the insights and experiences of scientists from these diverse identities.

In this session I will share my journey to and through an academic career, beginning with my years as a PhD student at the University of Alberta in the early 1990s. I will share the impacts that my multiple identities have had on my career and the choices I have made in my research, my teaching, and my focus on service to my communities. My story will show how our identities are intricately tied to all aspects of our lives, and how bringing our full selves to our work allows us to make the greatest impact.

  • Dr. Nola Etkin

    Dr. Nola Etkin

    University of Prince Edward Island

    Nola Etkin is the Dean of Science and a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Prince Edward Island, where she has taught Organic Chemistry and conducted research in Organometallic Chemistry and Catalysis since 1997. Dr. Etkin currently serves on the Canadian Society for Chemistry (CSC)’s Committee Working for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (WIDE), the CSC Board as Director of Student Affairs, and the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat’s Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Policy.

    Dr. Etkin’s involvement in Equity work began as a PhD student at the University of Alberta where she was involved in the local Women in Science and Engineering group and co-chaired the campus LGBTQ group then known as Gays and Lesbians on Campus (GALOC). This involvement has continued throughout her career - she was a founding co-chair of Abegweit Rainbow Collective, which was formed to provide support and advocacy to PEI’s 2SLGBTQ+ community, and is currently a member of the UPEI Joint Equity Committee and the UPEI EDI Steering Committee. Prior to her appointment as Dean, she served as the President of the UPEI Faculty Association, and has served on the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) Equity Committee. In 2016 she edited the book Making Chemistry Inclusive: Proceedings of the CSC Symposium on Equity and Diversity in Chemistry., and in 2020 she was awarded the Chemical Institute of Canada’s Chemistry Education Award, recognizing in part her contributions to EDI within Chemistry Education.

Keynote Lecture

A Decade of Discovery as a Mi’kmaw Chemist

Results from the 2016 Statistics Canada Census indicate that Canada remains a leader in education among developed countries. On average, 86 % of Canadians aged 24-65 obtain a high-school diploma or higher and 28.5 % hold at least a Bachelor’s degree. However, In the same age category just 65 % of Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit) hold a high-school credentials and only 10 % have at least a Bachelor’s degree. Although Indigenous peoples are clearly underrepresented in higher education, the Atlantic region has made great efforts to address the barriers faced by Indigenous scholars. The results speak for themselves. Atlantic Canada has the highest percentage of Indigenous students attending university across Canada, and Nova Scotia ranks first in the country for
Indigenous education with a high-school completion rate of 87 %. In Nova Scotia, 17 % of Indigenous students obtain at least a Bachelor’s degree, much higher than the national average. Significant investments in education and collaboration between the numerous Indigenous communities (13) and public universities (10) are contributing factors to Nova Scotia’s success in advancing Indigenous scholarship.

The Mi'kmaq are a First Nations people that are indigenous to Canada's Atlantic Provinces, parts of Québec, and northeastern regions of Maine (traditionally named Miꞌkmaꞌki). For the Mi’kmaq, the art of storytelling was essential to share information and to learn. As a Mi’kmaw and first-generation university student from rural Nova Scotia, I will share my story and journey with chemistry, and some of the notable lessons gained along the way.

  • Dr. Alex J. Veinot

    Dr. Alex J. Veinot

    Western University

    Alex Veinot is originally from Middleton, Nova Scotia and is a member of the Mi’kmaq community Glooscap First Nation. Alex completed his BScH (2015) at Acadia University with Prof. Bobby Ellis before moving to Saint Mary’s University to complete his MSc (2017) with Prof. Jason Masuda. Looking to broaden his research background, Alex then moved to Queen’s University to complete his PhD (2022) with Prof. Cathleen Crudden as a Vanier Scholar. Currently, Alex is a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in the Ragogna group at Western University. His research background spans main group, organic, and surface chemistry, 2D and 3D self-assembly, and N-heterocyclic carbenes. Alex has contributed to Indigenous academics and representation in science through numerous invited conference and seminar presentations, panel discussions, and has promoted equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) more broadly by assisting with the formation of the Queen’s local CWIC chapter QC-IDEAS, and serving on CSC WIDE.

Keynote Panel

Keynote Panelist

Amplifying Perspectives, Empowering Excellence: The Black Student Experience in Chemical Sciences

The pursuit of chemistry degrees by Black students comes with unique challenges. Underrepresentation in chemical sciences, limited access to resources, and implicit bias can significantly impact their academic experience and success. In my talk, I will shed light on my experiences and discuss the importance of diversity in scientific fields. The chemistry department can play transformative roles in addressing these challenges and providing crucial support. By implementing strategies such as increasing representation, cultivating inclusive environments, offering mentorship/tutoring programs, strengthening support services and providing targeted financial assistance, an inclusive and equitable environment that empowers Black students can be created. Through this, the academic achievements of these students can be promoted, and their voices and perspectives can be amplified while also fostering a more diverse and innovative scientific community. Through personal insights and actionable strategies, my talk aims to inspire change and pave the way toward a brighter, more inclusive future.

  • Zainab Bello

    Zainab Bello

    Dalhousie University

    My name is Zainab Bello. I received my BSc in Chemistry from Acadia University in Wolfville, NS. After the completion of my undergraduate degree, I went on to work as a Quality Control Chemist and later as a Bioanalytical Technician for two years at BioVectra Inc. located in Windsor, NS. I am currently in the first year of my MSc in Chemistry at Dalhousie University. Our lab group focuses on the development of new and improved peptide therapeutics. Outside the lab, I enjoy hiking, watching soccer, spending time with friends, listening to Afrobeats and hanging out with my cat!

Keynote Panelist

Colour Vision Deficiency in the Chemistry Laboratory: A Student Perspective

There are several universal characteristics that make up an undergraduate chemistry laboratory: a pre-lab talk, busy students and teaching assistants doing chemistry, a post-lab report, etc. However, one lesser discussed but equally important aspect that makes up many undergraduate experiments is colour. Colour aids students in a chemistry laboratory; from analytical techniques to reaction monitoring, colour is both cost-effective and useful. For those with colour vision deficiency, however, colour based experiments pose a serious detriment to learning outcomes in the laboratory. Examples include: a student may not be able to determine the endpoint of a titration done with phenolpthalein, which changes from a clear to light pink colour; a student may not be able to identify key colour markers for observations in a metal complex synthesis; and a student may have difficulty performing a separation on two differently coloured solutions. This begs the question of how can we best support these students, who make up 8% of the global population, in our chemistry laboratories. In this brief talk, I hope to give a student/teacher perspective on how to accommodate these students, and some general guiding principles that have helped us in the first year program.

  • Nick Roberts

    Nick Roberts

    Dalhousie University

    Nick recently graduated with a BSc honours in chemistry and minor in neuroscience at Dalhousie University. Nick has been active in research since his first year of university, focusing primarily on inorganic synthetic chemistry and density functional theory. His efforts have led to several publications, ranging in topics from geometric design of molecules to dispersion modelling of heavy element systems. Nick joined the first year chemistry laboratory teaching team during fall 2019, where his ongoing commitment to improving his teaching and the student experience led to his recruitment to the online laboratory development team during summer 2020. Within this team, Nick spoke fully of his ideas to improve course content whilst initiating design ideas that ensured the preservation of in-person laboratory hallmarks, such as choice in experimental path, opportunities to make/learn from experimental mistakes, and establishing chemistry community. As a senior teaching assistant, he independently implemented new tutorials into the laboratory program to support students on tricky topics. Nick is a co-investigator/grant holder on several teaching research projects, including a colour vision deficiency accessibility support project, and an investigative project into online learning and discussion forums

Keynote Panelists

Dalhousie WIC (Working for Inclusivity in Chemical Sciences)

In 2021 we found that our department was lacking in equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives and graduate students needed more support, so we founded a new chapter of Canadians Working for Inclusivity in Chemical Sciences, Engineering, and Technology (CWIC) network. This chapter happened to be the first in Atlantic Canada! We are a graduate-student-led initiative focused on promoting EDI in chemical sciences. Some of the initiatives we have taken on are, sharing educational resources, and spreading awareness of EDI issues, providing advocacy for graduate students, harbouring a supportive environment via outreach and events. Specifically, we have worked with graduate students in our department to bring attention to stipend pay errors and ensure that the faculty of graduate studies (FGS) addresses these issues promptly. We surveyed over 200 students who have experienced pay errors and have seen progress in terms of improved pay transparency from FGS as well as two new positions specifically dealing with stipend pay issues. Moving forward we hope to implement a stipend pay floor for graduate students in our department as well as establish an emergency fund for students facing hardship.

  • Dreenan Shea

    Dreenan Shea

    Dalhousie University

    Dreenan Shea is a PhD student working on photocatalytic water treatment and CO2 capture in Dr. Mita Dasog's lab at Dalhousie University. She is often seen mass producing plasmonic nanoparticles for various colleagues and collaborators. Dreenan (she/her) is from Tignish, Prince Edward Island. Outside of the Dasog lab, Dreenan loves hanging out with her animals (Marnie, Opal and Onyx), exercise watching basketball, and visiting with family and friends! She is also the Dalhousie WIC co-president.

  • Sana Murtaza

    Sana Murtaza

    Dalhousie University

    Sana (she/her) is a PhD student at Dalhousie University, where she is conducting research on plasmonic nanoparticles. While born in Karachi, Pakistan, she grew up in Dubai, UAE, where she completed her undergrad degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering. At Dal, she is currently a co-president of Dalhousie Working for Inclusivity in the Chemical Sciences, a society that promotes the interest of under-represented groups in chemistry. When Sana is not in lab, she can be found writing short stories, reading, knitting, watching kdramas and anime, or singing to her cat.

  • Sarah Martell

    Sarah Martell

    Dalhousie University

    Sarah (she/her) completed a BSc in chemistry from Mount Allison University and is currently a PhD candidate at Dalhousie University. Her research involves understanding the synthesis of porous silicon nanoparticles and utilizing their reactivity in water to generate hydrogen on-demand. Throughout her time at Dalhousie University, she has held executive roles on the Chemistry Graduate Student Society (CGSS), the Dalhousie Green Chemistry Initiative (GCI) and was one of the founding members of Dalhousie Working for Inclusion in the Chemical Sciences (DalWIC). When she’s not in the lab she enjoys hiking, camping, playing guitar, gardening, exercising (especially climbing), connecting with friends and family, and relaxing with her cats.

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