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Current Winner - 2023

NSERC John C. Polanyi Award

Cathleen Crudden

NSERC John C. Polanyi Award

Department of Chemistry

Queen’s University

Dr. Cathleen Crudden is a world-leading scientist whose research on the use of organic coatings to modify metal surfaces has garnered international recognition. Her work developing organic ligands for metal surfaces has been transformative not only in her field of chemistry, but also in physics and materials science, with potential applications in biology and medicine.

Organic-on-metal coatings are critical components of most electrochemical, biological and optical sensors, including COVID-19 rapid tests, pregnancy tests, and nanomedicines but Crudden was the first to demonstrate that carbon-based ligands called N-heterocyclic carbenes (NHCs) form organic films on metal surfaces that resist decomposition under a range of conditions, including solvents, oxidation, and extreme temperatures.

Prior to her discovery, no fundamentally new method to attach organic groups to metal surfaces had been developed in over 35 years, leading experts in the field to declare her work "game changing", "elegant" and "the new gold standard". Crudden has since demonstrated the impact of her technology in the development of novel NHC-based biosensors that achieve dramatically improved performance compared to commercial products. She is now collaborating with an array of international partners to advance the use of these novel nanomaterials in cancer treatments, as next-generation coatings for semiconductor chips, to improve pipeline protection, and to protect the surface of offshore wind turbines from corrosion.

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