Call him Windsor’s Molecule Man.
Recent arrival Jeremy Rawson is a molecule manipulator helping put Windsor on the nanotechnology map.
The acclaimed chemistry professor moved in September to the University of Windsor from the University of Cambridge -where he worked molecular magic for 14 years, including leading a team developing non-metal magnets.
He has already landed a prestigious Canada Research Chair grant worth $1.4 million over seven years. He’ll test “smart” materials at the molecular level, which could ultimately help make electronic devices lighter, smaller, tougher and more.
“When you look at individual molecules from a chemist’s perspective, you can tweak them and get down to individual atoms and see, if I move that atom from there to here, what effect it will have,” said Rawson, who works mostly with organic materials such as carbon, sulphur, nitrogen and hydrogen. “It allows you to design and tailor new materials with well-defined functions.”
Rawson will be honoured today, along with all 16 of the University of Windsor’s Canada Research chairs. Canadian Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear will visit the campus to laud the accomplished academics, making a special birthday present to the school’s newest Canada Research Chair, who turns 45 today.
“It’s nice to have the accolades of a Canada Research Chair,” Rawson said. “It means that other people think highly of your work. From a personal perspective, that’s great. From a research perspective, it means I will have a substantial amount of funding for the next seven years. So we can really push forward and make some progress.”
It’s a coup for Windsor to land a scholar as accomplished as Rawson, who figures he can devote more time to research.
He was born in Rugby, England, where the sport of rugby was also born, and grew up on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. He earned a PhD in chemistry from Durham University before securing a position at Cambridge, the second-oldest university in the Englishspeaking world.
Now he has landed in Windsor, despite worries over cold Canadian winters -though he braved his first one better than he imagined. His overseas move, meanwhile, lends more credibility to the University of Windsor’s burgeoning materials science work.
Materials science represents the scientific wave of the future since many pending technological advancements won’t come so much from the mechanics of the device but from the abilities of new materials.
As Wikipedia says: “With significant media attention focused on nanoscience and nanotechnology in recent years, materials science has been propelled to the forefront at many universities.”
Fibre optics, computer chips, solar cells -at the core of many emerging technologies -represent just a few of the new materials unlocking the future.
It all sounds like rocket science. Rawson mentions “impaired electrons” and “free radicals,” and talks about performing X-ray diffraction, firing beams of X-rays at crystals to analyze patterns.
Yet while the $200,000 a year will help him hire interns to work with films and sensors and other itsy-bitsy bits, developing better tolerances or flexibility or conductivity, he admits he does not yet know what applications will blossom.
It’s a bit of trial and error, like scientists testing different plants for medicinal properties.
Rawson only knows that new materials make new things happen.