Dale Ward

Distinguished Graduate Supervisor Award - Fall 2006

Dale Ward was born in Vancouver but was schooled in Edmonton where he obtained a B.Sc. (Honours) in chemistry from the University of Alberta. As a high school and undergraduate student, Dale received several academic awards and was set to start a career in the RCMP crime lab after graduation. However, when a national hiring freeze delayed the start of that post, he accepted an NRC Postgraduate Scholarship and began a Ph.D. program in organic chemistry under the supervision of W. A. Ayer. Forty months later, Dr. Ward obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Alberta and moved to Harvard University as an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow under the tutelage of Nobel laureate R. B. Woodward. After a term-appointment at the University of Alberta, Dale joined the University of Saskatchewan as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry in 1985. Tenure was awarded in 1989 followed by promotion to Full Professor in 1994. Currently he is the Graduate Chair in Chemistry and the Director of the Saskatchewan Structural Sciences Centre.

Professor Ward’s research program is in the area of organic synthesis with a focus on developing ways of controlling molecular chirality; that is, where structures occur in two distinct “mirror image” forms, like left and right hands. Although chirality is one of the most difficult factors to control in chemical synthesis, it is nevertheless crucial for numerous applications ranging from pharmaceuticals to electronics. For example, one chiral form of the drug thalidomide is a sedative, while its “mirror image” form causes birth defects. Ward’s research has been supported with external funding from NSERC since 1986 and has produced about 60 papers in refereed journals and an equal number of conference presentations. All but a handful of these contributions were co-authored with graduate students.

Professor Ward believes that, as academic researchers, our lasting legacy lies in those that we train. He has supervised 8 Ph.D. and 8 M.Sc. theses and currently supervises 8 doctoral students. Including undergraduate researchers and post-doctoral fellows, there are about 40 past and present members of the “Ward Group” from 15 countries. Now there are even some second-generation members (i.e., students of former students). Although some remain in academia, the vast majority of the graduates from the “Group” work in the pharmaceutical industry in Canada, the USA or abroad and all of the undergraduates have gone on to pursue chemistry graduate degrees in Saskatchewan or elsewhere.