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Atomic Weight Research by Alumnus Earns Him Heavy Accolades

Juris Meija (Chemistry '05) has been inducted into the commission formally in charge of evaluating atomic weights.

Date: 10/20/2009
By: Kim Burdett
Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Provided by Juris Meija
Juris Meija, a former doctoral student in University of Cincinnati’s Department of Chemistry, has recently been inducted into the Commission on Isotopic Abundances and Atomic Weights, a prestigious international group of 12 members that is responsible for evaluating the atomic weights and isotopic abundances of elements.

Meija, 29, is the youngest current member in the CIAAW and is the first Latvian in the organization’s century-long history.

“The commission is the final authority on atomic weights and making any changes that are currently associated with the periodic table,” says Professor Joseph Caruso, an analytical chemist in McMicken College of Arts and Sciences who advised Meija for his PhD. “It’s a small and select group. It’s a big deal.”

Juris Meija.
'Chemistry guru' Juris Meija received his PhD from UC with his dissertation, 'Interpretation of Mass Spectra for Elemental Speciation Studies.'

After receiving his PhD from UC in 2005, Meija worked as a postdoctoral fellow for the National Research Council Canada. As a scientist for the chemical metrology group of the Institute for National Measurement Standards (NRC-INMS), Meija, together with colleague Zoltán Mester, published a series of papers challenging the paradigms on the evaluation processes of atomic weight measurement results.

“We were able to find a fundamental flaw in the way people interpret or analyze atomic weight results,” Meija says.

When he presented his research to the CIAAW at its biennial meeting in Vienna this summer (a commission of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry), the members not only took his theory into consideration, as Meija had hoped, they offered him to be a part of the prominent organization.

“I was just trying to present my theory. It was my best shot to disseminate my research and hopefully have it taken seriously,” Meija says. “I was not expecting to be elected into the club.”

Caruso is not at all surprised by Meija’s new role.

“Through his publications and presentations, he’s been noticed worldwide for the capabilities he has in the area of isotope chemistry,” he says. “It’s an honor for us to have had a student of Juris’ capability.”

While he admits the role is the biggest professional accomplishment he’s received to date, Meija—who was nicknamed the “chemistry guru” during his time in the department—isn’t going to rest on his laurels.

“I’m just now starting this whole science thing,” he says nonchalantly. “But this is a pretty great milestone. It’s always great to be recognized for your work.”

The CIAAW is not new to UC. Frank W. Clarke, a chemistry professor in the late 19th century, spearheaded the commission when he was appointed by the American Chemical Society to create a committee to report on atomic weight.

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