|January 8, 1999||Volume 6, Number 8|
First Métis to get PhD in chemistry at U of S prepares for his next challenge
Lee Wilson peers at the numbers he has just scribbled down and then, satisfied, returns his attention once more to the experiment in progress. He's clearly at home in the smallish laboratory deep within the Thorvaldson Building, but if you look closely there appears to be the slightly pensive look of someone getting ready to leave.
Wilson, with a recent PhD in chemistry, will begin the new year in Ottawa with a position in the Functional Materials Group of the National Research Council. For Wilson - the first Métis to graduate with a doctorate in chemistry from the U of S - the new position is an opportunity to concentrate fully on the research work he clearly enjoys.
"When you're in school, you're doing other things besides research. This will be a little different - I'll be doing intense research there."
While at the U of S, Wilson, now 29, has distinguished himself as a student with awards including the Taube Medal (1997-98) for research excellence and the Johannson Scholarship (1995) for teaching ability, academic standing, and research work.
By speaking in schools in the Saskatoon area and organizing the Indigenous Summer Science Camp between 1995 and 1998, he has also served as a role model for Native and Métis children
His own interest in the sciences began while he was still in school in Lake Francis, a small community of 500 inhabitants near Lake Manitoba. He was the first in his family to pursue a university degree.
"In high school I really looked up to one of my teachers as a role model, and that was my chemistry teacher. I just thought that science was a good area to study in university and ended up having a good experience with it during my undergraduate years," he says.
After completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Winnipeg, Wilson came to Saskatoon in 1992 at the recommendation of his undergraduate project supervisor, Dr. Alaa Abd El Aziz, who had completed his own PhD here.
Wilson's doctoral work focused on the study of binding interactions between cyclodextrins (carbohydrates that appear as hollow, truncated cones) and surfactants (common in cell membranes).
He established a new technique of looking at the interaction between cyclodextrins and surfactants, which is important in the area of drug delivery in the body.
When he's not mixing agents in the laboratory, Wilson says he enjoys leaving the city for the tranquility of the natural world. Hunting and fishing, he explains, are an ideal way to enjoy some precious free time. And living in Saskatoon for the past several years has meant that he's been able to enjoy these outdoor pursuits with relative ease.
"Being in Saskatoon, you only need to drive north for an hour or so and you're into some beautiful, remote country. Manitoba is a little more populated and developed."
He says he doesn't think of himself as a big game, trophy hunter. "For me it's mostly the challenge I enjoy."
These days, however, Wilson is more concerned with the challenge of his impending move to Ottawa and the new work he'll be doing there. At the NRC, he says, his research will have a markedly different focus.
"So far, I've been working with solution chemistry, or the interactions in solutions. My work is now going to be with solid state chemistry. The research will involve working to develop 'designer materials' such as new porous solids for use in industry. It involves a change of field for me."
- Dale Worobec
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