Canadian University Leads International Corrosion Training Effort

Yolanda Hedberg, a chemistry professor at Western, holds a suspension of nanoparticles that she uses in her corrosion research. Photo by Rebecca Milec, Western Communications.

Western University (London, Ontario, Canada) is leading a national plan to train a new generation of international corrosion scientists through a redesigned and more equitable curriculum, education, training, and research. According to the university, Western’s expertise includes preventing medical nanoparticles from degradation, safeguarding used nuclear fuel in copper canisters, and protecting bridges from oxidizing.

Yolanda Hedberg, a chemistry professor, is administering a $1.65-million grant from the Natural Sciences and Research Council of Canada featuring the collaboration of eight universities and four industry partners, along with 20 universities abroad and three international corrosion associations in 19 countries.

The aim is to spark the imagination of thousands of children and young adults to consider global problems in corrosion. “Corrosion science is not just about cars, and it’s not just for techno-nerds,” she says. “It’s about chemistry, biology, ethics, environmentalism, and so much more. It’s about preserving our resources and the Earth.”

“The point is that corrosion scientists are helping society in all sorts of ways, and that message is not getting out,” Hedberg says. “People aren’t thinking about corrosion as in, ‘I can study this and change the world.’”

One gap has been attracting and retaining women, immigrants, and equity-deserving persons into the field, says Hedberg, who describes herself as one of only a few corrosion researchers at some conferences. “Diversity brings more perspectives and more problem-solvers,” she adds. “Science is not about one genius’s perspective. It’s a collective effort, and the training needs to reflect that fact.”

Hedberg believes building enthusiasm should start early, before kids reach high school. Corrosion is everywhere, she explains, even if people are unaware. “You have to know the basis about how corrosion takes place in different metals,” Hedberg says.

The program is also intended to cultivate expertise among postsecondary students already in the field. Under the program, students can access research and training expertise from 43 principal investigators in 19 countries on six continents. They will be able to discover, for example, the ethical aspects of resource extraction on Indigenous lands in Australia, or learn the equity and health-care implications of corroded water pipelines in Belarus.

“The training program will allow them to connect the dots among disciplines so that, ultimately, they can help make people healthier and improve sustainability of our resources, economy, and environment,” Hedberg says.

Source: Western University,