Faculty Research Interests

Edward Berkelaar: Since coming to Redeemer in 2003, Edward has carried out research into the bioavailability of trace elements (cadmium, thallium, and selenium) to plants. From 2005 – 2010, he held an NSERC Network Grant (The role of speciation in the uptake of thallium and selenium). He is currently co-managing (with Dr. Darren Brouwer) a study of water quality of urban creeks within Hamilton, a project funded by Redeemer’s Centre for Christian Scholarship.  Click here to listen to Edward’s inaugural address on the history and environmental consequences of nitrogen use (jump ahead to 6:55 if you wish to skip introductory comments).

Darren Brouwer: Darren, along with his undergraduate research assistants, carries out research in the area of “NMR crystallography”, an approach to determining the atomic/molecular-level structures of materials in which the techniques of solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, powder X-ray diffraction (XRD), and computational chemistry are integrated in a complementary fashion. He currently holds an NSERC Discovery Grant for this research and also collaborates with Gillian Goward at McMaster University on developing new NMR methods for studying clean energy materials such as lithium ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells. He co-manages (with Dr. Edward Berkelaar) a study of water quality of urban creeks within Hamilton, a research project that began in his analytical chemistry course and has expanded with funding from Redeemer’s Centre for Christian Scholarship.

Water Quality Monitoring Project

Beginning in the fall of 2012, Dr. Darren Brouwer initiated a study of the Chedoke Creek watershed in an effort to incorporate project-based learning within the analytical chemistry course. The study was repeated and expanded in the fall of 2014 in a subsequent analytical chemistry course. In 2015 Dr. Brouwer and Dr. Berkelaar were awarded a Zylstra Grant from Redeemer’s Centre for Christian Scholarship to further expand this study. Two students were hired for the summer of 2015 to monitor water quality primarily in the Chedoke Creek watershed, but also in other watersheds flowing into Cootes Paradise. Some sites in the Red Hill Creek watershed were also sampled. Efforts are underway to make this a longer-term monitoring project.

Parameters routinely measured include dissolved oxygen (DO), pH, total dissolved solids (TDS), nitrate, phosphate, biological oxygen demand (BOD5), E. coli and total coliform bacteria. We are also developing methods to detect caffeine and pharmaceuticals in water samples.

Results:

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Senior Student Research Projects

Some fourth-year students choose to do a senior research project. Recent studies include:

  • Leaching of Cadmium from Tires, Jaimie Juriansz (ENV 490)
  • Nitrogen and Phosphorus Assessments in a Designated Rural Southern Grand River Tributary, Hannah Piggot (ENV 490)
  • Green Chemistry for Organic Chemistry, Sara Witzke (CHE 390)
  • Analysis of Pharmaceuticals in Water Using High-Performance Liquid Chromatography, Jared Vanhuizen (CHE 390)

Senior Seminar Course

One of the unique features of the Chemistry and Environment Studies programs at Redeemer is our series of “Senior Seminar” courses (CHE/ENV 381, 382, 383,and 384) that Chemistry and Environmental Studies (science stream) majors take in their 3rd and 4th years. The series of courses is team-taught by Darren Brouwer and Edward Berkelaar and runs for one hour per week over four semesters. The classes are primarily student-led and always rich in discussion about the intersection of Christian faith, our vocations, and the major issues in chemistry and environmental science.

Recent topics that have been discussed include:

  • Planetary Boundaries
  • Fritz Haber, synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, and environmental impacts of excess nitrogen
  • Paul Mueller, DDT, and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring
  • Thomas Midgley, leaded gasoline, and Claire Patterson’s quest to ban lead from gasoline
  • Lynn White’s The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis
  • Our modern energy supply: coal, fracking, oil sands, and pipelines

The course also focuses on practical aspects such as:

  • Reading and critically evaluating the primary scientific literature
  • Writing a research proposal
  • Reflecting on your personal mission statement to set goals for your career
  • Guest speakers to talk about their career paths