Dr. Peter Mahaffy

Professor, Chemistry

P: 780-465-8343
  • PhD Organic Chemistry, Indiana University, 1979
  • BA, Dordt College, 1974


Peter is professor of chemistry and co-director of King's Centre for Visualization in Science (KCVS), which provides digital learning resources used by well over a quarter million students, educators, and the public from over 100 countries each year.

Research and professional areas

  • Chemistry Education (rich contexts for chemistry, collaborative learning strategies, models in elementary science, laboratory pedagogy)
  • Systems Thinking in Chemistry Education - IUPAC Project 2017
  • Visualization in Science (Co-director King's Centre for Visualization in Science)
  • Public Understanding of Science
  • Climate Change Science Education
  • Organic Chemistry: Reaction Mechanisms (photochemistry, matrix isolation spectroscopy, and reactive intermediates)

Professional service

  • Co-Chair, Campus Alberta Quality Council
  • Charter Member, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Temporary Working Group on Education and Outreach - OPCW received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013
  • Editorial Advisory Board, Journal of Chemical Education
  • Past-Chair, International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry Committee on Chemistry Education and member of IUPAC Bureau
  • Editorial Advisory Board, Chemistry in Context, 9th Edition, American Chemical Society
  • Charter Member, International Council of Science (ICSU) Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the Conduct of Science (CFRS)
  • Charter Member, International Council of Science (ICSU) Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the Conduct of Science (CFRS)
  • American Chemical Society Presidential Working Group on Climate Science
  • International Advisory Committee, 24th Intl Conference on Chemistry Education, Malaysia, August 2016
  • Chair, Gordon Research Conference on Visualization in Science Education: International. July, 2005, Oxford, UK (Cover of Feb. 4, 2005 issue of Science Magazine)
  • Engaging Chemistry Distinguished Lecture Series Committee, Edmonton, 1992-present
  • IUPAC/UNESCO International Year of Chemistry Management Committee
  • IUPAC Task group leader, International Year of Chemistry 2011 Designation

Select awards

  • College Chemistry Canada C3 Award in Chemical Education (2019)
  • International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry Committee on Chemistry Education Award for Distinguished Contributions to Chemistry Education (Rome, 2012)
  • American Chemical Society, Committee on Environment and Industry Award for Incorporation of Sustainability into Chemistry Education (San Diego, 2012)
  • NE Section of the American Chemical Society, James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry (Boston, 2011)
  • 3M National Teaching Fellow, Canada (2008)
  • Alberta Centennial Medal (2005)
  • Chemical Institute of Canada National Chemistry Education Award (2003)
  • Fellow, Chemical Institute of Canada (1999)

Select publications

  1. Mahaffy, P.G.; Matlin, S.A.; Holme, T.A; MacKellar, J. (2019) “Systems Thinking for Education about the Molecular Basis of Sustainability,” Nature Sustainability 2, 362–370 .
  2. Mahaffy, P.G.; Brush, E.J.; Haack, J.A; Ho, F.M. (2018).  “Journal of Chemical Education Call for Papers-Special Issue on Reimagining Chemistry Education:  Systems Thinking, Green & Sustainable Chemistry,” Journal of Chemical Education, 95 (10), 1689-1691.
  3. Mahaffy, P. G.; Krief, A.; Hopf, H.; Matlin, S. A. (2018) “Reorienting Chemistry Education through Systems Thinking,” Nature Reviews Chemistry, 2, 1-3.
  4. Holden, N. E.; Coplen, T. B.; Böhlke, J. K.; Tarbox, L. V.; Laeter, J. R.; Mahaffy, P. G.; O'Connor, G.; Roth, E.; Tepper, D. H.; Walczak, T.; Wieser, M. E.; Yoneda, S. (2018) "IUPAC Periodic Table of the Elements and Isotopes for the Education Community," Pure and Applied Chemistry, 90 (12), pp. 1833-2092.
  5. Mahaffy, P. G.; Holme, T.; Martin-Visscher, L.; Martin, B.E; Versprille, A.; Kirchhoff, M.; McKenzie, L.; Towns, M.  (2017) “Beyond ‘Inert’ Ideas to Teaching General Chemistry from Rich Contexts: Visualizing the Chemistry of Climate Change (VC3),” Journal of Chemical Education, 94 (8), 981 – 1182, (Editor’s choice and featured on the Journal cover)
  6. Mahaffy, P., Bucat, B., Tasker, R., Kotz, J., Treichel, P., Weaver, G., & McMurry, J. (2015) Chemistry: Human Activity – Chemical Reactivity, 2nd Canadian and 2nd International Editions (Integrated package of introductory university Chemistry textbook and interactive digital learning resources), Nelson/Cengage.
  7. Mahaffy, P. (2015). Chemistry Education and Human Activity, Chapter 1 in Chemistry Education: Best Practices, Opportunities and Trends, Garcia, J. Ed., Wiley-VCH: Weinheim.
  8. Mahaffy, P. G.; Martin, B.E; Kirchhoff, M.; McKenzie, L.; Holme, T.; Versprille, A.; Towns, M.  (2014) “Infusing Sustainability Science Literacy Through Chemistry Education: Climate Science as a Rich Context for Learning Chemistry,” ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 2 (11), 2488 – 2622.
  9. Mahaffy, P. (2014) “Telling Time: Chemistry Education in the Anthropocene Epoch,” Journal of Chemical Education, 91(4), 463-465.
  10. P. Mahaffy, J. Zondervan, A. Hay, D. Feakes, and J. Forman (2014). Multiple Uses of Chemicals – IUPAC and OPCW Working Together Toward Responsible Science, Chemistry International, Sept. –Oct. 2014, 9 - 13 (cover article).
  11. Martin, B., Mahaffy, P. (2013) Using Visualizations of the Science Behind Climate Change to Change the Climate of Science Teaching in Suits, J., ed., Pedagogic Roles of Animations and Simulations in Chemistry Courses, American Chemical Society, Washington DC, 1142, pp 411-440.
  12. Mahaffy, P. G.; Martin, B.E; Schwalfenberg, A.; Vandenbrink, D.; Eymundson, D. (2013), “ConfChem Conference on A Virtual Colloquium to Sustain and Celebrate IYC 2011 Initiatives in Global Chemical Education — Visualizing and Understanding the Science of Climate Change,” Journal of Chemical Education, 2013, 90 (11), 1552-1553.
  13. Mahaffy, P. (2011). The Human Element: Chemistry Education’s Contribution to our Global Future, in The Chemical Element: Chemistry’s Contribution to our Global Future, Garcia, J. Ed., Wiley-VCH: Weinheim.
  14. C. Corillon & Mahaffy P. (2012).  Scientific Relations Between Academia and Industry:  Building on a New Era of Interactions for the Benefit of Society.  International Council of Science (ICSU), Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the Conduct of Science (CFRS).
  15. Gustafson, B., & Mahaffy, P.  (2011). “The concept of a model: Ways to teach students the meaning behind models and not just what they represent,” Science and Children, 49 (1), 73-77
  16. Mahaffy, P., Ashmore, A., Bucat, R., Do, Choon; Rosborough, M. (2008). “Chemists and the Public: IUPAC’s Role in Achieving Mutual Understanding,” Pure and Applied Chemistry, 80 (1), 161-174.
  17. Pearson, G. & Mahaffy, P. (2006). “Education, outreach and codes of conduct to further the norms and obligations of the chemical weapons convention,” Pure and Applied Chemistry, 78 (11), 2169-2192.
  18. Mahaffy, P. (2006). “A tetrahedral metaphor for understanding chemistry,” J. Chem. Educ., 83(1), journal cover and pp 49-56. 

Select interviews

  1. Feature Interview by Vera Koster, editor of Chemistry Views Magazine, Nov 6, 2012, “Where Chemical Education is Heading:  Interview with Peter Mahaffy.” http://www.chemistryviews.org/details/education/2559091/Where_Chemical_Education_is_Heading_Interview_with_Peter_Mahaffy.html   
  2. M. Schultz and K. Lim (2014), From Chemical Warfare to Peace (interview with P. Mahaffy, J. Forman and A. Hay), Chemistry in Australia, May 2014, 16-19
  3. Interview by Robert Price, editor of Lab business, Jan/Feb 2012 issue, in feature on “Scientists about Educating Scientists”, p 10-11  http://www.labbusinessmag.com/archives/2011/LAB_JanFeb11_Issue.pdf  
  4. Interview by Linda Wang, senior editor of Chemical and Engineering News, 90 (8), 46-47 in Feb 20, 2012 issue on “Makeshift Chemistryhttp://cen.acs.org/articles/90/i8/Makeshift-Chemistry.html
  5. Temechegn Engida, “An Interview with Prof. P. Mahaffy,” African Journal of Chemical Education, 1 (1), January, 2011, p 5-9. (inaugural issue of AJCE for International Year of Chemistry-2011) http://faschem.org/AJCE/AJCE_2011_January.pdf

Digital Learning Objects (KCVS) 

  1. Isotopes Matter (2015). Set of electronic resources for introducing the IUPAC Interactive Electronic Periodic Table of the Isotopes, IUPAC Project.  www.kcvs.ca
  2. The interaction of UV light with Matter (2015). Set of interactive digital learning objects for addressing the role of UV light in our atmosphere, its interaction with ozone in the stratosphere, and the effect of nanoparticles in sunscreens on the absorption of UV light by the skin.  A project for the American Chemical Society, Chemistry in Context.  www.kcvs.ca
  3. Chemistry for Ages 10-15 (2015). Set of 8 interactive modules and teacher resources for introducing beginning ideas about the nature of models, the particle nature of matter, physical change, and chemical change. (http://www.kcvs.ca/site/projects/elementary.html).
  4. Visualizing the Chemistry of Climate Change (2014). Set of 4 interactive modules for 1st year university chemistry, as an output of the NSF-funded VC3 project, CCLI Award 1022992. (www.vc3chem.com).
  5. Multiple Uses of Chemicals (2013). Set of interactive web-based materials created with a team of undergraduate student research collaborators and reviewed by both scientific and science education peers. A partnership of King’s Centre for Visualization in Science with IUPAC and OPCW, the recipient of the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. (http://multiple.kcvs.ca/site/index.html)
  6. Visualizing and Understanding the Science of Climate Change (2013 Set of 9 interactive modules for 16-19 year old students as an International Year of Chemistry-2011 legacy project. (www.explainingclimatechange.com)