Open Science at Concordia Conference

In May I had the pleasure to present recent and ongoing work done in collaboration with the Kahnawá:ke Environmental Protection Office – An effort to build a Citizen Science Air Quality Monitoring Network.

I also discussed earlier work in Montreal’s East End using a simpler sensor array to measure particulate matter only (PM2.5 and PM10) at different locations near the port and commercial installations and how it impacts local residents. The project contained an educational and outreach component to raise awareness about local air pollution among residents.

Low cost air quality monitors for teaching

I have adopted the Arduino platform to introduce students to environmental measurements and monitoring. For the Integrated Science seminar students built a low cost PM2.5 monitor (a Plantower PMS5003) with data written to an SD card all connected to an Arduino board fitted with a development shield.

Arduino microcontroller board to receive and write PM2.5 data in a student-built device

Following their chosen hands-on project (e.g., monitoring indoor or outdoor air quality in their immediate environment, students could then explore data structure and basic strategies of plotting and data analysis as an introduction to the scientific process.

Review remote teaching at the SALTISE 2021 Conference

With now two full remote teaching terms under my belt (although shortened labs remained in-person) it is good to look back (and ahead) for all things university and college teaching

I would like to draw your attention to an upcoming teaching conference (with a Montreal focus, but more and more Canada-wide and international contributions):

As part of the conference a number of workshops will be offered; for those teaching (university) first year courses Workshop #3 on the upcoming renewal of the CEGEP curriculum might be of interest:

Feel free to join the discussion session that includes my poster contribution: Moving Analytical Chemistry courses to an online format and lessons learned for in-person teaching

P05 – Emerging Issues in STEM teaching I
3:45 PM, Thursday 3 Jun 2021 EDT (1 hour 15 minutes):

New paper out!

Written by the excellent Emilie Manny in collaboration with Université Laval in Dr. Samuel Godefroy’s research group!

Emilie Manny, Sébastien La Vieille, Silvia A. Dominguez, Gregor Kos, Virginie Barrère, Jérémie Théolier, Joseph Touma, Samuel Benrejeb Godefroy, Probabilistic risk assessment for milk in dark chocolate, cookies and other baked goods with PAL sold in Canada, Food and Chemical Toxicology (2021) 152, 112196, doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2021.112196

Getting your hands dirty — sampling for trace metal analysis

Last week I went water and soil sampling with first year students. As part of an Integrated Science course, where we explore fundamental science skills and discuss chemistry, physics, biology and mathematics aspects centred around Environmental pollution we visited an abandoned copper mine East of Montreal.

After an in-class introduction to the former mining sites, sampling techniques and a visit underground with some beautifully coloured rock formations, students went out to sample soil and surface water including the effluent of a now flooded abandoned mine. Furthermore, samples were collected in a reclaimed area, including a river.

Samples will now be analyses for 10 different trace metals using ICP-MS. The data will be used in introductory data analysis modules, where students will explore basic statistical analysis and visualization techniques.

Fall term approaching

The new term is coming fast and it is going to be an interesting one — I will be teaching mostly Thermodynamics, but there is also a new exciting course that I am working on together with the support of the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at Concordia (; check out their really cool offerings for instructors!) —

An Integrated Science course for first year (non-CEGEP) students to explore different Science disciplines (chemistry, physics, biology, math) by working on a single topic, which in my case will be “Environmental Pollution”!

New paper in press: 25% of agricultural commodities are contaminated with mycotoxins! Really?

With collaborators in Finland, Austria and the United Kingdom I have been working on an update of the decades-old Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate that, globally 25% of agricultural commodities are contaminated with mycotoxins.

The origin of this number is very much unknown — the original report seems to have gone missing; yet the number remains widely cited in the scientific community, in articles, at conferences and in the general news media.

We took a good hard look at recent studies and results, mainly from the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), publicly available data from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and proprietary data from the feed additive company Biomin, looking at different threshold values to establish a data-based current estimated.

Results are quite surprising and soon to be published in Annual Review of Food Science and Technology. Publication details and citation to follow once it becomes available.

R workshop at Université Laval

Last week I gave a 2-day R workshop at the Parerea group at INAF at Université Laval. While the first day was roughly modeled on my introduction to R from my Advanced Data Analysis course at Concordia (but with agricultural data rather than meteorological data), I have added new material for the treatment of censored data and allergenic risk assessments using Monte-Carlo simulations.

The latter was also new territory for me. While I had immersed myself into allergenic risk assessments during the past 6 months for PhD student advising, implementing distribution estimations and Monte-Carlo simulations in R was a nice challenge!

The R packages fitdistrplus (for distribution estimates) and mc2d (for Monte-Carlo simulations with fitdistrplus output) were extremely helpful to get the job done!

A new Advanced Data Analysis course

Last fall have have taught my first grad course (for Masters and PhD students) at Concordia; CHEM 498/610: Advanced Data Analysis.

The course is an introduction to data analysis using R and experimental design using Modde Pro and was given by 2 colleagues and myself. After an introduction to R and practice problems to gain some initial programming experience (Chemistry and Biochemistry students have little exposure to programming) we looked at preparation of (censored and non-censored) data before tackling topics such as regression, ANOVA, multivariate classification and regression methods…)

Grad students used their own data or chose suitable datasets from the public domain after discussion with the instructors!