Cathleen M. Crudden  2001 UNB Research Professor

Cathleen Crudden is a self-professed fan of detective stories. In high school she discovered that she also loved chemical research, using knowledge to predict and understand what goes on in a flask, and that it has a lot of similarities with detective work. Being able to combine these two loves in a career is good fortune for UNB and for the pharmaceutical industry.

Since 1996, this molecular detective in UNB Fredericton's Department of Chemistry has focused her research on making molecules with a particular chirality. Chiral compounds have two forms, a right-handed form and a left-handed form. When a right-handed form of a chiral molecule comes in contact with a left-handed form, they behave differently.

Handedness is particularly important in pharmaceuticals, and drug manufacturers disregard it at their peril. The most compelling example is thalidomide. It was sold as a mixture of right-handed and left-handed compounds. Although the right-handed material was able to quell morning sickness, the left-handed one caused horrible birth defects. While today's stringent drug testing screens out chiral forms with such disasterous consequences, they still cause minor side effects in many medicines. Best of all is to produce drugs that have only "one-handedness."

Dr. Crudden's research centres around using transition metal compounds to synthesize compounds with only the desired handedness. Ibuprofen is just one of the common drugs she has been studying.

Born in Belfast, Cathy earned a BSc and a Master's degree at the University of Toronto, and a PhD from the University of Ottawa, where she studied with Howard Alper, a giant in the field of catalysis. An NSERC post-graduate award took her to Osaka, Japan, and she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Illinois at Urbana. Five years ago, she was recruited by UNB Fredericton and accepted the appointment, she says, because of the excellent reputation our Department of Chemistry has nationally and internationally.

Still a young researcher, Cathy has had an outstanding beginning to her career. She has laid the foundations for a very innovative and productive research program, has proven herself to be an enthusiastic and effective teacher and has taken a strong service role as well. She is an all-round professor in the best sense, and one of those rare people about whom a department of the future can be built.

Since coming to UNB, she has obtained substantial funding from Canadian, United States and Japanese sources. These include the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the prestigious Research Corporation, the Ichikizaki Foundation, the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, BioChem Pharma and Merck and Company.

With this University of New Brunswick Research Professorship, Cathy's early accomplishments are being recognized and her potential is being nurtured. She is a faculty member of whom we are very proud and who is keeping alive the tradition of her distinguished UNB predecessors — among them Frank Toole, Karel Wiesner, and Denny Valenta.

Presented by David Magee, Chair of Chemistry
February 16, 2001