This article was featured in the june 5th, 2001 edition of "The Ring" (the University of Victoria's community newspaper). It is part of a series of articles profiling UVic's new faculty members.
Childhood fascination with science still fuels chemistry prof
by Valerie Shore
When Alexandre Brolo was a child growing up in Brazil one of his favourite toys was a chemistry set. He was fascinated with watching chemical reactions and trying to figure out what was going on. Not much has changed. Sure, the chemistry set has been replaced by a lab soon to be equipped with thousands of dollars worth of state-of-the-art instrumentation, but his end goal is the same — trying to figure out what’s going on.
Spend even five minutes with Brolo, who joined UVic’s chemistry department in January, and it’s very apparent that his childhood passion for chemistry has evolved into healthy scientific ambition. “I came to UVic to be a top researcher in electrochemistry and spectroscopy, and that’s what I want to do,” he says.
He also wants to teach, something that he got plenty of experience doing in Brazil where chemistry instructors are few
and far between. During his first year as an undergraduate at the University of Sao Paulo, he taught chemistry night courses for
adults. “I was the youngest guy in the classroom at the time,” laughs Brolo, who by third-year was teaching high school chemistry part-time. “When a person learns something from you, this is a very nice feeling,” he says.
By the time Brolo earned his master’s from Sao Paulo, he had narrowed his field of interest to surface electrochemistry. Then he headed north to Ontario’s University of Waterloo and a PhD and postdoctoral work that added Raman spectroscopy and pulsed laser technology to his skill set. At UVic he plans to combine all these techniques in novel ways to study chiral molecules — asymmetrical molecules that are of keen interest to the pharmaceutical industry in the design of new drugs.
“I want to create new spectroscopic techniques that are laser-based and can give much more information about the dynamics of chiral molecules,” explains Brolo, who admits he’s still driven by that old childhood curiosity. “I’ve been thinking about my research ideas for a long time,” he says, “and if they happen the way I hope, then it will be a nice contribution to science.”