Crudden Research Lab

The Boss

In 1996, Cathleen started her own research group at the University of New Brunswick. In 2002, she moved to Queen’s University.

In 2013, Cathleen was offered a position as a member of the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (ITbM) at Nagoya University where she runs a full-time satellite lab.

Cathleen is a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair and the recipient of the 2019 Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award.

Early Life

Cathleen Crudden was born in Belfast, N. Ireland to Patrick and Linda Crudden. Shortly thereafter, her family emmigrated to Canada, where they settled in Toronto and gave Cathleen two younger sisters, Mary and Sarah, and her only brother, Patrick.

Cathleen grew up in Toronto attending Notre Dame high school in the Beaches before starting her B.Sc. at the university of Toronto. After this, she stayed on at the U. of T. to complete a master’s degree with Professor Mark Lautens.

Ottawa was the next stop where Cathleen completed her Ph.D. under the supervision of Professor Howard Alper. During this time, she had the pleasure of an extended stay in Japan, doing research with Professor Shinji Murai and Naoto Chatani at Osaka University.

After completing her Ph.D., she was an NSERC postdoctoral fellow with Professor Scott E. Denmark at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.  In 1996, she started her own research group at the University of New Brunswick.

Graduate & Post Doctoral Studies

Early Career

After 5 years at the University of New Brunswick, where she learned to canoe, pick fiddleheads and tell the difference between hostas and skunk cabbage, she was offered a job at Queen’s University, where she moved in 2002 as a Queen’s National Scholar.

In 2006, Cathleen and the distinct pleasure of taking part of her sabbatical back in Japan, this time in Nagoya in the Noyori Research Labs, with Professor Kenichiro Itami as her host. In addition to learning some great chemistry, she experienced an earthquake, improved her Japanese (すこしだけ) and enjoyed a few nights out at local karaoke bars. In 2007, it was off to Spain for a half sabbatical with Elena Fernandez, enjoying the fabulous Catalan hospitality, chemistry and food.

In 2010, Cathleen became Mom to her beautiful daughter Caitlin, and shortly after her return from maternity leave, became head of an NSERC CREATE award in Chiral Materials. For 2011-13, she was Vice President, President and Past President of the Canadian Society for Chemistry.

In 2013, Cathleen was offered a position at the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules in Nagoya Japan as a Research Professor.  With the help of her very talented Assistant Professor Masakazu Nambo, she runs a satellite group there year round.

Full Professor to Present

Cirriculum Vitae

Employment

  • Full Professor, Queen’s University, July 2009
  • Visiting Research Professor, Universitat Roviri i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain, Research group of Elena Fernandez September-October 2007
  • Visiting Research Professor, Nagoya University, Research Center for Materials Science, Research group of Kenichiro Itami and Ryoji Noyori (Nobel prize 2001) October-December 2006
  • Associate Professor, Queen’s University, August 2002-present
  • Queen’s National Scholar, 5 year research chair (non-renewable) August 2002-July 2007
  • University Research Professor, University of New Brunswick, January 2001-July 2002
  • Associate Professor (tenured), July 1, 2000
  • Assistant Professor, University of New Brunswick, May 1996- June 2000
  • NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Supervisor: Professor Scott E. Denmark Feb. 1995-May 1996

Education

  • Ph.D., NSERC Postgraduate scholar, University of Ottawa, Supervisor:Professor Howard Alper January 1991-January 1995
  • Exchange student, Osaka University, Japan, Supervisor: Professor Shinji Murai March 1994-June 1994
  • M.Sc., University of Toronto, Supervisor: Professor Mark Lautens June 1989-December 1990
  • B.Sc., University of Toronto, Supervisor: Professor Mark Lautens September 1985-May 1989

Teaching Philosophy

Student training and education is the most important and most enjoyable aspect of my work as a professor. My graduate students are always welcome in my office and are encouraged to ask me as many questions as they like. In a more abstract sense, I see the relationship between a graduate student and his or her professor as an apprenticeship. In the old-fashioned style of apprenticeship, the student learns directly from the mentor. To accomplish this, I speak to every student at least every other day, which helps to keep me in touch with what is going on in the lab and also gives the students an opportunity to learn directly from me.  It is very important, however, that students are able do their own problem solving and think and work independently. This is especially the case when it comes to research ideas, and I try to encourage students to develop and pursue their own ideas.

Upon entering my lab, students choose a research project or two from a list of ideas and projects I have. I usually suggest that the student choose two projects, one relatively safe and one more risky. This allows the students to work on a truly exciting project and at the same time, be confident that they will leave my group with publications.  Having two projects also gives the student good exposure to different lab techniques, which broadens their areas of expertise.

In addition to interacting directly with me, students are part of a “sub-group” within the group as a whole.  Within this sub-group are students and PDFs working on related projects, so that we have critical mass on each project.  In addition, we have weekly group meetings where 2-3 students and postdocs present their work to the entire group. This is a great opportunity for brainstorming and generating ideas.  Special topics presentations are also part of this weekly group meeting.

An important part of research training is the ultimate goal: for the student to graduate and move on to an independent research career. I consider this type of training to be my responsibility, thus I try to teach my students a variety of skills, ranging from synthesis to catalysis to materials. In addition, I invite speakers from industry on a regular basis to educate the students as to what is involved in an industrial career or at an interview for an industrial position. When we have speakers visiting, I often ask students to present their research so they have the opportunity to meet professors and industrial chemists, and gain the experience of presenting their research to others.

Although publications are by far the most important method for the dissemination of knowledge gained through research, conference presentations are also of crucial importance. Students typically attend 2-3 national CSC conferences and at least one international conference during their Ph.D.  I think it is important for students to meet other researchers in Canada and also to get personal feedback on their research. More often than not, this is an extremely positive experience, which all the students enjoy.

Graduate students who join my group can expect to complete a master’s degree in 1.5-2 years and a Ph.D. in 4-5 years. Graduate studies should not be a life’s work, but a stepping stone to an independent career. After carrying out research for 4-5 years in one area, students should be ready to move on to another institution and another challenge.

When I was a graduate student, I had the opportunity to go abroad to study and carry out research in Japan with Professor Shinji Murai in Osaka University. This was one of the best experiences of my life and so I strive to give my own graduate students similar opportunities. Thus every Ph.D. student who joins my group will have the opportunity to carry out a student exchange to do research in another lab, either in Canada or in another country such as Japan or the USA. This is a very useful way to broaden your connections and to learn different ways of doing chemistry. For students participating in the CREATE program, this exchange is formalized and targeted to Japan, Sweden and France, however other opportunities are also possible. In particular, since I have a satellite lab in Japan now, many students have the opportunity to do research there in the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules.

Traditionally, we have encouraged students to take 3-4 months on exchange. This allows students enough time away for a good experience out of the trip without interfering with progress of your thesis back home.

I truly believe that a happy student is a productive student. Therefore I do my best to ensure that all my graduate students are contented. For foreign students, this means helping with permanent resident applications or visa problems and differential fees. For Canadian students, this means making sure they have all the help they need with scholarship applications, which I review with them in detail, and that they have as much access to conference travel and other “perks” that I can provide. We have regular group trips to the graduate club to celebrate student accomplishments (or to celebrate good weather!) and have group curling, softball and regular summer barbeques at my place.  My group has also always had great group spirit and without a doubt as I am writing this, some of them are raising a beer together or chasing a squash ball.