Julie Lefebvre

Science medallist eyes teaching career

May 29, 2008

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By Julie Ovenell-Carter

Whether she’s in the lab or in the kitchen, new science PhD Julie Lefebvre is always cooking up something impressive.       

When she isn’t studying material chemistry or prolifically publishing the results of her research findings, the winner of this year’s Dean of Graduate Studies Convocation Medal in the Faculty of Science likes to relax by baking – much to the delight of her colleagues who frequently enjoy the fruits of her domestic labour.

Lefebvre’s willingness to share extends far beyond the lab. The soft-spoken Quebecker gives generously of her time to help run SFU’s community garden, mentor undergraduate students and teach high school students through the chemistry department’s Science in Action outreach program.

Lefebvre, who finished up with a 4.07 grade point average, excels at written and oral communications in both English and French. She published 12 papers in leading journals during her doctoral studies and has been honoured many times for the quality of her oral and poster presentations.

"I think it’s important to communicate about science in an accessible way," says Lefebvre. "It only takes a little extra effort to make difficult concepts easier for non-scientists to understand." Little wonder then that she is considering a teaching career. "It’s really fun when I am working with the high school students through Science in Action and I can see them getting interested and asking questions."

Meantime, Lefebvre is adding German to her linguistic repertoire as she prepares for post-doctoral studies at the University of Heidelberg. "At SFU, I looked at how polymers that contain metal centres might be used as sensors — some vapours, like ammonia, for example, will cause the polymer to change colour, which could have significant practical applications."

So practical, in fact, that some of her discoveries have been patented in North America and Europe. In Germany, she’ll study bioinorganic chemistry, examining how oxygen binds to iron in the body.

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