TWU student latest molecular engineer

Langley, B.C.—As a child, Langley’s Mike Beukema may have built farm equipment with Lego, but today he engineers molecules with DuPont. As a result, this student of chemistry from Trinity Western University has been able to impact the larger scientific community.

Under the guidance of TWU professor Chad Friesen, PhD, Beukema conducted research for his senior thesis this spring with the help of DuPont, an industry leader in the advancement of science.

“We were trying to make a catalyst that is more efficient and highly recyclable,” says Beukema. Hydroformylation was the subject of his research. If successful, Beukema’s work could make the process of creating plastics more profitable and more environmentally friendly.

“I did find it exciting,” comments Beukema on his experience. “I liked the problem solving and the chemical dynamics of it.”

As complex as the building of molecules can be, Beukema didn’t experience too many hurdles. “Basically, our reactions worked.” It was DuPont who confirmed his results by analyzing samples of his work with the latest technology. “We did have connections with people that helped.”

But DuPont’s labs aren’t open to just anyone. “If they didn’t like the area of research we were doing, something that is not what they have their finger in, they wouldn’t have done it,” says Beukema.

Friesen agrees with Beukema’s assessment. “Honestly, the corporation is only interested in a university if the faculty employed at that institution are known to have experience and expertise in their areas of need.”

Fortunately for Beukema and TWU, Friesen has had an ever-growing reach into the scientific community that has helped to broaden the scope of research opportunities for chemistry students at TWU. “I’ve worked on projects with Western Chemical, Weyerhaeuser and DuPont, a lot of which has occurred while teaching full-time at TWU,” he states.

Providing students with the opportunity to do research is important to Friesen. “When students work on projects for corporations it makes it easier for them to get jobs.”

Krista Laugesen is one example of how TWU’s partnership with industry through Friesen has benefited students. “Crystal, who was our first person at DuPont, worked there in a co-op position, graduated, and then they hired her back.”

And DuPont isn’t the only place where students from TWU have gained research experience. “We’ve had between 12-15 students work with Western Chemical,” Friesen adds. We will have a second student work for DuPont this summer.”

Ultimately, Beukema’s results were strong enough to be presented at this year’s Western Canadian Undergraduate Chemistry Conference in Regina. “You want to be able to get to a certain stage where someone can say that you’ve done something significant. I think we satisfied ourselves.”

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a not-for-profit Christian liberal arts university enrolling over 3,200 students this year. With a broad based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 38 major areas of study ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 12 other graduate degrees including counseling psychology, theology and administrative leadership.

Last Updated: 2015-07-13
Author: Keela Keeping