Laurel Schafer

Canada Research Chair in Catalyst Development

Tier 1 - 2019-04-01
The University of British Columbia
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council


Research involves

Developing sustainable catalytic technologies for preparing nitrogen-containing, biologically active small molecules and responsive, functional materials.

Research relevance

This research will lead to new catalytic technologies that create agrochemical and pharmaceutical building blocks from simple petrochemicals while reducing waste and energy use.

Using Catalysts to Generate High-Value Chemicals and Materials

Energy-efficient and clean technologies for preparing chemicals that contain nitrogen are in high demand for the manufacture of drugs, agricultural products and plastics. Nitrogen is incorporated into many biologically active compounds and can offer routes to access smart materials that respond to their environment.

Achieving these goals requires the development of catalysts. Catalysts promote chemical reactions, but are chemically unchanged at the end of the reactions. As Canada Research Chair in Catalyst Development, Dr. Laurel Schafer is developing catalysts that selectively incorporate nitrogen into products while ensuring that all atoms in the starting materials are also incorporated, leading to no waste.

Furthermore, Schafer and her research team are realizing these goals by working with metals of low toxicity that are easily modified and rapidly assembled. These reactive compounds can be used in fine chemical, petrochemical, pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries.

She and her team are also exploring new catalysts and synthetic approaches for a variety of applications, such as preparing self-healing and adhesive plastics and generating new drugs for treating chronic pain.

Schafer’s sustainable solutions will change the way important industrial chemical products are made. Through her research, simple and abundant products from the oil and gas sector—or naturally occurring extractives from waste forestry and agricultural products—can be converted to high-value nitrogen-containing materials and molecules using cost-effective, environmentally friendly catalytic methods.