Fourth-year Chemistry PhD student receives prestigious award

Lucas McCann, a fourth-year PhD student in Chemistry is the 2014 recipient of the Dr. Douglas Butler Award. The award was celebrated recently at the 2014 Dr. Douglas Butler Award and Lecture in Organic Chemistry. The inaugural Douglas Butler Lecture was delivered by Prof. P. Andrew Evans, the Alfred R. Bader Chair of Organic Chemistry at Queen's University.

Lucas McCann photo

Lucas McCann delivering his talk at the 2014 Dr. Douglas Butler Award and Lecture in Organic Chemistry

Lucas says events such as the celebration and lecture "help create stronger bonds with persons from industry and students. I sent Mr. Pekos a letter after I was awarded and asked to meet him for coffee so I could thank him in person. He invited me to his lab and gave me a tour; he is a very nice fellow with many great anecdotes and stories."

Established by York alumnus Peter Pekos, President of Dalton Pharma Services, and his wife Natalie Lazarovych in 2008, the award honours former York University Chemistry Professor Douglas Butler. Dalton Pharma Services was set up by Mr. Pekos, a former student of Dr. Butler's, and Dr. Butler, after Mr. Pekos finished his Master's degree in 1986. The prize is awarded to a graduate student in the field of organic chemistry who has demonstrated a passion for chemistry through academic excellence and research talents.

In the last year of his PhD, Lucas came to York from Université Laval where he obtained his Master's. "The award was well timed for me as my student loans provided had determined that I no longer qualified for funding. It has helped remove financial barriers and allowed me to focus on research — although we get some funding from York, it's tight as a veteran student because your life is financially on pause, you can't buy a house or move forward in social aspects of your life."

"After graduation I will have some time to focus on art, like playing music. I have pursued chemistry mostly because of interests and I am now starting to consider how it could be used for employment opportunities."

Career-wise, he says he has considered management consulting, as well as, going into the development of environmental policy on renewable energy. "Long term, I see myself in government — I'm running for the Greens in this year's provincial election and I could see myself one day as Prime Minister. I would love to teach much later on," Lucas says.

When not making music, or working on his PhD, Lucas dedicates his time to his new role as President of the York University Graduate Student Association. He also plays rugby at the competitive level.

"I have played Rugby for a number of years and it helps with the frustrations of being a student. Currently, I play rugby on the York Lions men's rugby club, its not yet attained a varsity status although we have been meeting frequently with the administration at York to evaluate the possibility of gaining OUA and eventually varsity status," Lucas says.

"I'm very careful with time management but I also find myself bored easily so it helps me to keep busy. It helps that I've developed good hand skills in the lab, combined with a lot of luck I've been able to get some work out into high-profile journals, however, I owe my supervisor a lot for his guidance, encouragement and for putting me onto a very challenging yet important project."