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A lifetime achievement

Gregory Jerkiewicz receives title of Professor of Chemical Sciences for Life from president of Poland.

[Gregory Jerkiewicz]
Gregory Jerkiewicz (Chemistry), was conferred with the title of Professor of Chemical Sciences for Life by Andrzej Duda, President of Poland, during a ceremony in Warsaw on April 25. (Supplied Photo)

Gregory Jerkiewicz (Chemistry), an international-leading researcher in the fields of electrochemistry and electrocatalysis, was recently conferred with the title of Professor of Chemical Sciences for Life by Andrzej Duda, President of Poland.

Dr. Jerkiewicz was one of 52 academics to receive the award during a special ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on April 25. He was one of only two recipients from outside of Poland.

For Dr. Jerkiewicz it was a special moment recognizing the groundbreaking work he has done over his career in developing new clean energy technologies.  

“It’s an incredible recognition for all the work I have done. It’s a culmination of many years of work,” he says, admitting he felt a bit emotional as he took part in the ceremony. “It’s very satisfying because you work on something for 25 years and it’s like putting pieces of a puzzle together and finally after so many years you see the big picture.”

Dr. Jerkiewicz’s research has led to advances in hydrogen electrochemistry and he is considered the world’s leading expert in platinum electrochemistry. More recently his lab has focused on nickel electrochemistry, and received a $4 million research grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in 2016.

Originally from Poland, Dr. Jerkiewicz completed his undergraduate and master’s studies at Gdansk University of Technology. It was during this time that he co-founded and became a leader of the Independent Students’ Association, which supported the pro-democratic work of the Solidarity trade union that eventually toppled the communist regime in Poland. However, this work came at a cost. He was imprisoned by the communist government for six months and, fearing for his safety after being released, he moved to Canada in 1985. He remains a dual citizen of Poland and Canada.

After earning his PhD at the University of Ottawa in 1991 he taught at Université de Sherbrooke and then arrived at Queen’s in 2002.

This isn’t the first time Dr. Jerkiewicz has been by the Polish government.

In 2012 he was honoured by the Polish government for his student activism with a Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, an award equivalent to the Order of Canada.

While his latest honour recognizes the work throughout his career, Dr. Jerkiewicz considers himself a mid-career academic and plans on continuing his work for many more years.

A key component is his teaching and work with new researchers through his lab.

“I really like teaching because, very often, when I teach students come to me asking some fundamental questions and I realize ‘Oh, this is not explained in some first or second year textbook and if it is not explained it’s a challenge. But lacking knowledge or being asked about something that is not explained is an opportunity for researchers. Somebody did not explain it, I can do it.”

Visit the website of the Dr. Jerkiewicz Research Group to learn more.