A warm welcome to Rachel Baker, who joined the Department of Chemical Engineering in July as our newest Assistant Professor, and is also cross-appointed to Chemistry. Rachel completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology under Dr. Karthish Manthiram. Her research here focused on mechanistic investigation of organic electrochemical systems. After completing her Bachelors in Engineering Chemistry at Queen’s, she completed a PhD in Organic Chemistry with Dr. Mark Lautens at the University of Toronto. Her work here involved the development of dearomative rhodium-catalyzed cyclopropanation reactions from cyclopropenes, and the synthesis of imidazothiazole compounds for the control of parasitic nematodes.

“I am thrilled to be returning to the Chemical Engineering Department, where cutting-edge research comes to life and learning is a priority”, says Rachel. “I have many good memories from my time here and can’t wait to make many more with the Queen’s community. With the talented students here at Queen’s, I look forward to not just teaching them but learning from them as well!”

Rachel holds the inaugural Robins Family Professorship of Engineering Chemistry, where she will provide valuable leadership to the program as it broadens its design mandate to include chemical diagnostic techniques, alternative energy systems, and green chemistry applications. She will develop new curriculum design elements focused on biomedical and environmental monitoring devices, energy conversion/storage devices such as fuel cells and batteries, and sustainable processes for producing fine chemicals.


The overall vision of Rachel’s research program is to decrease the reliance of the chemical industry on fossil fuels, through the development of paired electrolysis reactions. To do this, she’ll target two types of chemical transformations with the aim of increasing process sustainability or discovering new reactivity. Specifically, she is investigating the use of electrochemical techniques for conversion of alcohols derived from biomass, as well as new strategies for electrochemical transformations of carbon dioxide in the production of chemicals such as pharmaceuticals, fuels, agrochemicals, materials and more. Rachel recently received funding from the Government of Canada through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) which allows new researchers to acquire state-of-the-art infrastructure to fuel innovative research including acquiring laboratory equipment, instruments and facilities. You can learn more about her research program at her website: www.bakerlab.ca

“With increasing amounts of electricity in our grid coming from renewable sources like solar and wind, powering our reactions with electricity rather than burning fossil fuels seems like a no-brainer, and yet so few processes in industry take advantage of electrochemistry”, says Rachel. “Going one step further to use renewable materials as a starting point for chemical production allows us to rely even less on fossil fuels. The Baker lab studies how this synergy between renewable energy and materials can allow us to move towards a more sustainable chemical industry. We will be using strategies from electrochemical engineering, organic and inorganic synthesis, and green chemistry to achieve our goals. Perhaps most importantly, I aim to create a space where we can solve complex problems and have fun doing it!”

Rachel is currently looking to recruit motivated graduate students for her interdisciplinary group. Candidates with a background or interest in electrochemical systems, organic synthesis, green chemistry or a related discipline are encouraged to apply. All inquiries can be directed to rachel.baker@queensu.ca