Dr. Lisa Kates has joined the Chemistry Matters team. Lisa is an environmental chemist with a strong background in organic, analytical and forensic chemistry. She has participated in studies and investigations related to clandestine drug operations, human health and ecological risk assessments, forensic interpretation of oil spills and human toxicology.
Dr. Lisa Kates has been published in peer-review journals on topics related to methamphetamine waste and human health risk assessments for traditional foods.
We asked Lisa some questions so you can learn more about the newest member of our team.
QUESTION: How did you get interested in environmental chemistry?
Lisa found interest in environmental chemistry during her undergraduate studies thanks to interesting classes and great professors. When she had the opportunity to merge environmental chemistry into her master's degree in forensics, she couldn't pass it up:
"It felt like there was a lot more flexibility in researching on the environmental side as opposed to the forensics side... there was more room to explore different lines of thought and an ability to be creative in science," said Dr. Lisa Kates.
QUESTION: What type of projects or investigations are you looking forward to being involved with at Chemistry Matters?
Dr. Kates has worked with Chemistry Matters on a drug investigation for a suspected clandestine drug lab. She was able to apply her strong background in chemical criminalistics, forensic drug analysis, clandestine drug operations and human toxicology: "It was really great to be able to apply that knowledge and get back to my roots."
Regarding upcoming projects with Chemistry Matters, Lisa says "I am most looking forward to the variety of investigations that we get to work on at Chemistry Matters. New projects answering tough chemistry questions are a challenge that I am looking forward to!"
QUESTION: Let's talk more about the projects you've worked on. Tell us about your research on environmental impacts of methamphetamine.
"My PhD thesis was focused on the environmental impacts of waste products from clandestine methamphetamine labs.
Meth is fairly easy to make, but it generates a huge amount of waste – for every pound of drug made, about 3 to 5 pounds of waste is also generated. This waste is usually disposed of illegally, such as dumped down drains, into rivers and lakes, or even buried or burned. Many of these chemicals are corrosive and/or toxic to the environment, but no one ever looked at what was actually in the waste.
My research determined a chemical profile for the waste following different routes of manufacture. I then used computer modelling to estimate what would happen to the waste once it was dumped into the environment.
The aim was to be able to provide the authorities with information to be able to use multiple types of legislation, such as the “polluter pays” principle, along with drugs legislation to pursue clandestine drug manufacturers."
QUESTION: We know you've written a number of publications. Your most recent one is titled "Improving Risk Assessment Calculations for Traditional Foods Through Collaborative Research with First Nations Communities." Tell us more about the study.
Dr. Kates explained that the study was focused on working collaboratively with a First Nations community to conduct a human health risk assessment for traditional teas:
"We studied two different traditional plant species and prepared teas with the community elders. Levels of metals were measured in both the teas and the plants.
Normally in human health risk assessments, the plants are ground up, chemical concentrations are measured and calculations are applied to estimate risk. However, this does not reflect how the First Nations are consuming the plants – they don’t eat the plants raw, but rather use the plants to make tea.
The extra processing step actually reduces the amount of chemical that is available to enter the body, which reduces the potential risk. This becomes important because it provides a more accurate estimate of potential risk that more closely reflects the community’s consumption patterns.
This may help to avoid unnecessary food consumption advisories that can have long-lasting negative effects on a community."
QUESTION: Thank you for taking the time to tell us more about you and your work. Is there anything else you'd like to share?
"Rowing is a huge part of my life," said Lisa.
It's something that she loves being a part of outside of work: "I started rowing on the Red River at the Winnipeg Rowing Club when I was in high school. Since then I have rowed, coxed and coached at five different rowing clubs in three different provinces and in two different countries. Currently, I coach the recreational program at the Calgary Rowing Club and just finished my next level of coaching certification."
Want to know more about Dr. Lisa Kates? You can read more at her full bio.