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King’s Professor Recognized for Outstanding Contributions in Chemistry Education

The Chemical Institute of Canada and The King’s University are pleased to announce that Dr. Leah Martin-Visscher, Associate Professor of Chemistry, is the 2021 recipient of the Margaret-Ann Armour Award for Early Career Chemistry Education. This award recognizes early career educators who have made outstanding contributions in Canada to post-secondary undergraduate education in the chemical sciences, chemical engineering, or chemical technology.

Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour, an organic chemist by training, devoted her life and career to advocating for advancing women and other underrepresented groups in the sciences. Dr. Leah Martin-Visscher knew her personally, having met her first as a student at King’s when Dr. Armour spoke at an Interdisciplinary Studies Conference, and then as a graduate student at the University of Alberta: “She always took the time to stop and talk with me—she made me feel like I belonged,” Dr. Martin-Visscher recalls. “As a female chemistry professor, I have the chance to make all my students feel like they belong in the chemistry classroom and laboratory. When people feel like they belong, they are empowered.”

Dr. Leah Martin-Visscher was a high school chemistry teacher before she began her university career at King’s. Her research focuses on natural food preservation using bacteriophages and bacteriocins, and the use of both learning outcomes and rich-contexts to help guide teaching and learning in the chemistry classroom. In addition to her passionate work with undergraduate students at King’s, her outreach activities inspire and invite elementary and high school students to participate in chemistry.

“Chemistry is a discipline that allows us to see or know the world in some fascinating ways,” Dr. Martin-Visscher explains. “Understanding patterns and transformations in matter reveals a certain level of trust-worthiness in creation. At the same time, chemistry reminds us of the mystery in creation. The quantum world moves us into a place where things no longer act or behave like we expect them to—this is a great reminder that there are things in our lives that we can’t explain or understand.”

She notes that people often rely on the knowledge, tools, and products of chemistry for health, fuel, and to dream up solutions for global challenges. However, the knowledge, tools, and products of chemistry are also deeply connected to many of the challenges we face. In this respect, Dr. Leah Martin-Visscher observes, chemistry is a discipline that is both humbling and hopeful.

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