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Ashlee J Howarth

Assistant Professor, Concordia University

 

And - Recognised, Forbes 30 under 30, Science

Believe in yourself, find people who believe in you, ignore anyone who doesn't.

What do you do?

I am a chemistry professor at Concordia University. My job primarily involves running a research laboratory, and teaching undergraduate and graduate courses. My research lab is comprised of students working towards undergraduate or graduate degrees in chemistry, and together we work on designing new materials (specifically metal–organic frameworks) for applications in wastewater remediation. We focus on making materials that can adsorb or catalytically degrade harmful contaminants in water, with the end goal of implementing our materials in simple filters and at wastewater treatment plants in Montréal and around the world. 

Why did you choose this field?

"Making sure everyone has access to safe and clean drinking water is one of [my] passions."

For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in science. My parents nurtured that interest when I was about 10 years old by buying me the components needed to make a homemade battery setup. Later, in my first year of university, I had an excellent Chemistry professor. His enthusiasm was contagious and it helped to solidify my love of Chemistry!

 

Throughout my undergraduate studies, I always enjoyed Inorganic Chemistry and knew I wanted to work on application-driven research in that field. That is what led me to pursue my PhD and postdoctoral studies in the field of inorganic materials chemistry. 

 

Ever since I started grad school, my goal was to work in academia so that I could have the freedom to tackle challenges that I am passionate about.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

There are a number of achievements that younger me would not believe – including obtaining a PhD in chemistry, performing postdoctoral research at one of the top chemistry schools in the world, being named to Forbes Magazine “30 under 30” list in science and lastly being a professor of chemistry at a world class institution in Canada.

Why do you love working in STEM?

"I love working in STEM research because everyday I learn something new."

My students learn from me, but I learn a lot from them too and we tackle new tasks and new challenges each week together. Most days, I wake up looking forward to something different – a new result, a new paper draft or a new idea. In general, I look forward to interacting with the students in my research group.

Best advice for the next generation

To believe in yourself, to find people who believe in you, and to ignore anyone who doesn’t. 

Fave app

Twitter – there are so many amazing scientists interacting on Twitter. You can also follow hashtags like #WomenInSTEM to find out about events and to connect with potential mentors in your STEM field of interest.