A nanoparticle researcher in Wilfrid Laurier University’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has been named University Research Professor for 2019/20. Professor Vladimir Kitaev is the recipient of the one-year internal award that recognizes excellence and leadership in research.
Kitaev’s research on particles smaller than 100 nanometres – one nanometre is a billionth of a metre – has applications in spectroscopy, optics, environmental remediation, medical sensing and diagnostics. In addition to their practical applications, the novel nanomaterials he produces are beautiful.
“Our group controls the size and shape of nanoparticles to produce a rainbow of colours and wide spectrum of useful properties,” said Kitaev. “Because they are colourful, they interact strongly with light. This is useful in many ways, for example in optical sensors.”
Not only does Kitaev’s work with gold and silver nanoparticles result in brilliant colours without dyes, his research group has produced nanoparticles in the shape of rods, pyramids, cubes, pentagons and decahedrons – even shapes that resemble apples and fish. These nanoscale building blocks provide distinct and controllable optical properties.
“Dr. Kitaev has made many original and important contributions to materials chemistry,” said Jeffery Jones, Laurier’s interim associate vice-president: research. “His expertise in synthesizing nanomaterials of controlled size and shape is helping bring nanomaterials into real-world use. His work is an example of the global impact Laurier researchers are making.”
Academically, Kitaev is an internationally influential researcher. He has published more than 80 peer-reviewed articles, many in top-tier journals, and his papers have been cited more than 6,000 times, a very high number in his field. Kitaev received a prestigious Ontario Early Researcher Award in 2010 and has secured more than $1.2 million in external research funding during his 15 years at Laurier.
Kitaev knows research can’t be confined to university labs and journals. He works closely with a number of industrial partners to distribute nanomaterials commercially as well as to ensure they can be practically used in applications such as medical sensing devices and spectroscopes.
Though he works with practical ends in mind, Kitaev maintains the sense of curiosity and wonder that made him love chemistry sets as a child. He passes along that spirit of inquiry to the undergraduate and graduate students he mentors, many of whom have coauthored peer-reviewed articles with him.
“I came to chemistry because I was curious to know why silver coins are shiny,” said Kitaev. “Now I can say I have accomplished what I wanted to do as a youngster.”
The competitive University Research Professor award is administered by Laurier’s Office of Research Services. The award was created to recognize a continuous record of outstanding scholarship by a full-time member of the Laurier faculty and to enable that faculty member to complete a major program or piece of research.