Emma Master

Emma Master recognized with Connaught Innovation Award

Professor Emma Master of the department of chemical engineering and applied chemistry in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering has received a Connaught Innovation Award to support her team’s work on plant-based, renewable alternatives to petrochemical compounds.

Grounded by what Master describes as “a deep appreciation of the carbon, energy, and function embodied by Canada’s boreal forest,” her team uses biocatalysts to upgrade major plant fibre components for use in renewable materials - instead of simply breaking them down into fermentable sugars.

“Our enzyme technology presents a more resource-efficient approach that maximizes the value of naturally occurring chemical structures present in the starting material,” Master says. “At the same time, our enzyme technology is designed to upgrade underused residues of major agricultural and forest practices, underscoring the potential impact of the technology on increasing resource efficiency.”

The associate director of BioZone, a centre of applied bioscience and bioengineering, Master is also co-leader of Genome Canada's SYNBIOMICS project that uses enzymes to upgrade biopolymers from trees, creating higher-value materials and heads the NSERC CREATE training program in open science for industrial biotechnology in the circular economy.

Awarded a Finland Distinguished Professor Fellowship in 2010, Master also received a European Research Council Consolidator grant in 2015. Last year, she was awarded a Future and Emerging Technologies Open grant to integrate bioscience, computational sciences and materials sciences for the advancement of biotechnologies in circular bio-based economies.