Hayes earns CAFA honour

The Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations (CAFA), the provincial organization representing academic staff associations at the University of Alberta, the University of Lethbridge, and Athabasca University, recently announced the recipients of the CAFA Distinguished Academic Awards for 2010.

Among the recipients is Dr. Paul Hayes an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, who will receive the 2010 CAFA Distinguished Academic Early Career Award at an event in mid-September.

The CAFA Distinguished Academic Early Career Award recognizes academic staff members who, at an early stage of their careers, through their research and/or other scholarly, creative or professional activities, have made an outstanding contribution to the wider community beyond the university.

Hayes is being recognized for, among other projects, his research to find a cost-effective, environmentally sustainable 'green' alternative to conventional plastics.

Building his research programme at the University of Lethbridge from scratch, Hayes has been able to attract top-quality students and postdoctoral fellows to his lab. As principal investigator, he has secured multi-year external funding, including grants from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Alberta Ingenuity, NSERC, the Canada School of Energy and Environment, and GreenCentre Canada.

Hayes' research is receiving wide attention in the scientific community, and already has resulted in an impressive string of high-profile publications in leading peer-reviewed chemistry journals, in addition to numerous invited presentations at scholarly conferences across Canada and abroad.

His research in the field of organometallic chemistry, focusing on fundamental questions in catalysis and polymer science, addresses the need to develop new technologies for chemical conversions, which are crucial to drug development, materials synthesis, and the production of value-added chemicals.

Specifically, his work on polylactide polymerization catalysis advances our understanding of the synthesis of 'green' polymers, that is, biodegradable polymers that can be prepared from inexpensive renewable sources, such as corn.

This research holds the key to the challenge of producing viable alternatives to many conventional materials, such as 'green' plastic for food packaging. Lactone polymers also have many possible medical applications, for example in absorbable sutures, matrices for the slow release of pharmaceuticals, and polymer scaffolds for tissue engineering.