Professor Kylie Luska has joined the Department of Chemistry’s St. George campus this January, taking a role as an Associate Professor, Teaching stream in the field of organic chemistry.
Luska received his M.Sc. from the University of Guelph (Schlaf Group) and Ph.D. from McGill University (Moores Group), both in the field of Green and Sustainable Chemistry, before working as a postdoctoral fellow and sub-group leader in the group of Walter Leitner at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. Upon returning to Canada, he took up a position at McMaster University as an Instructional Assistant and Sessional Instructor within their organic chemistry program.
“My teaching work has focused on trying to incorporate a range of skills into laboratory activities,” said Luska, who pedagogical efforts have focused on improving student experience in second-year organic chemistry courses, particularly for students in life science, medical science, biology and biochemistry programs. “For many non-program students, second-year organic chemistry is often a terminal chemistry class. Once they move into their careers, most will never again perform the techniques and reactions that we perform in these lab courses.”
With that in mind, Luska focuses on creating lab activities that allow students to practice problem-solving and critical thinking skills, moving away from traditional "recipe-based labs". “My driving force is a belief that problem-solving and critical thinking are the most important skills that we develop during our undergraduate degree. Inquiry-based labs create opportunities to build these widely transferable skills that benefit all students, regardless of their program.”
Inquiry-based experiments assign a specific problem to students and require them to develop their own procedures and collect their own data to reach an undetermined outcome. These activities provide undergraduate students with a greater opportunity to exercise initiative and creativity within a laboratory setting, better preparing them for experiences in an academic or industrial lab environment.
Luska has also tried to focus these labs closer to biological applications to spark the interests of non-program students and highlight the relevance of chemistry in their chosen fields.
With Luska’s background and expertise in the field of Sustainable Chemistry, he is also interested in incorporating the practices of green and sustainable chemistry into the undergraduate curriculum. Luska was involved in McMaster's effort to start Canada’s first undergraduate program in Sustainable Chemistry in 2018 and taught within the program. “I believe that Sustainable Chemistry doesn’t have to be a stand-alone subject, but is an attitude by which chemists should approach their work. Introducing students to sustainable chemistry throughout their undergraduate degrees provides the best opportunity to reach this goal.” Luska is thrilled to be joining a department with such a such a rich history of incorporating the ideas of green and sustainable chemistry into the undergraduate chemical curriculum, which spans almost the past two decades. “I look forward to continuing to teach the next generation of chemists about sustainability."