Professor Mitchell A Winnik

Department of Chemistry

Appointed a University Professor in 1998

Professor Winnik is full professor in the Department of Chemistry in the Faculty of Arts and Science and is regarded as one of the outstanding physical chemists of his generation. He has achieved this distinguished position by performing research characterized by an imaginative, unique and characteristic blend of physical organic chemistry, organic synthesis, photochemistry and polymer chemistry.

Since the late 1970's, Professor Winnik and his coworkers have been examining various applications of fluorescence spectroscopy to polymers, particularly in the study of polymer-polymer interfaces. A strong emphasis in his research group is the study of scientific issues of particular concern to industry. Among the polymer systems under study in his research group are latex dispersions, latex films, polymer blends, block copolymers, interpenetrating networks, and water soluble polymers, particularly associative thickeners. His group also investigates various aspects of molecular self-assembly in solution. These aspects include kinetic processes of traditional surfactant micelles in water, and, in collaboration with his colleague Ian Manners, the formation of cylindrical and tubular micelles from inorganic block copolymers.

Professor Winnik has contributed to the study of polymer interfaces by development of new methods based upon fluorescence spectroscopy. His experiments have stimulated research across the world both in industry and at universities in the area of latex film formation and associative polymers. Professor Winnik's research has also been characterized by a concern for the practical application of fundamental research and a desire to reach across traditional boundaries of scientific disciplines. The best example of his success concerns the transfer of knowledge about associative polymers used as paint thickeners into a new methodology for sequencing the human genome and for forensic testing of DNA. Another example is the use of phosphorescence spectroscopy to test aviation design models in wind tunnels. Thanks in part to Professor Winnik's work, for the first time one can measure the air pressure profile on a spinning propeller in a wind tunnel.

Professor Winnik received his Ph.D. degree in the area of organic chemistry at Columbia University in 1969 under the direction of Professor Ronald Breslow and then spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Professor George Hammond at the California Institute of Technology studying organic photochemistry. He joined the faculty at the University of Toronto in 1970 as an organic chemist. On his first sabbatical, in Bordeaux France, he chose to switch his interest to polymer chemistry.

Professor Winnik has received the Bell Forum Award for excellence in University-Industry research interactions and an Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award. He and his coworkers received three first place Roon awards (1991, 1995, 1998) for contributions to the coatings literature. For his work on waterborne coatings and he received the R.W. Tess Award (PMSE division, American Chemical Society) in 1999 and the 2001 Matiello Lecture Award. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.