This article originally appeared in Smith Engineering at Queen’s News here.
Kingston native Rachel Baker, Sc’17, will begin her term next year as Robins Family Professor of Engineering Chemistry, a professorship endowed by DavosPharma founder and Kingston native Barry Robins, Sc’64.
Baker earned her PhD at the University of Toronto earlier this year and is spending the upcoming year in postdoctoral work at the California Institute of Technology. From there, she will return to the region to begin the inaugural Robins Family Professorship term at Queen’s. She is passionate about research and teaching that lie at the intersection of chemistry and chemical engineering and is excited to join Queen’s Engineering in 2023.
“We are very pleased and excited to have Rachel join our department,” says Brian Amsden, Professor and Head of the Chemical Engineering Department. “She will bring research expertise in an area of global need while providing new perspectives and capacity to our engineering chemistry program. We are grateful for the investment the Robins’ family has made to build and strengthen Engineering Chemistry at Queen’s. The impact will be felt far beyond the university itself.”
Baker’s PhD thesis, in organic chemistry under the supervision of Professor Mark Lautens at UofT, is focused on the development of reactions using rhodium catalysis, and the design of new molecules for crop protection from parasitic nematodes. She is now at the California Institute of Technology in the group of Professor Karthish Manthiram as a postdoctoral research fellow in chemistry and chemical engineering where her research will be centered around minimizing the carbon footprint of the chemical industry by incorporating renewable molecules into electrochemical domino reactions.
“I am thrilled to join the Queen’s community once again and look forward to an exciting career ahead,” says Baker. “I enjoyed my time in the Engineering Chemistry program, and I can’t wait to get involved with the Chemical Engineering department from the faculty side.”
The Robins family features three generations of engineers from Queen’s University. From a humble beginning here in Kingston, where he faced financial hardship amid his engineering study, patriarch Barry, Sc’64 (Chemical Engineering), founded DavosPharma in 1972 — which provides scientific expertise and technical/regulatory support during drug development for academic institutions, emerging biotech, and established multinationals — where he is now Chairman of the Board.
Sons David, Sc’91 (Engineering Chemistry), and Brian, Sc’94 (Chemical Engineering), are currently co-CEOs of DavosPharma.
David’s sons Timo, Sc’20, and Riku, Sc’22, who also studied Engineering Chemistry, are the family’s most recent matriculates at Queen’s.
The Robins’ family feel strongly about giving back to their alma mater through this professorship, to both honour Barry and to enhance the Engineering Chemistry program at Queen’s for future generations. Barry was particularly pleased to learn that Rachel Baker is also from Kingston, in addition to the expertise she brings to this role.
As the inaugural Robins Family Professor of Engineering Chemistry, Baker will provide valuable leadership to the program as it broadens its design mandate to include chemical diagnostic techniques, alternative energy systems, and green chemistry applications. She will develop new curriculum design elements focused on biomedical and environmental monitoring devices, energy conversion/storage devices such as fuel cells and batteries, and sustainable processes for producing fine chemicals.
The Robins Professor will also strengthen the relationship between Chemical Engineering and Chemistry by engaging faculty from both departments.
Rachel Baker with members of the Robins family and Dean Deluzio.