Chemistry Guru Wins Award
Juris Meija has excelled in science for so long that he probably was not surprised last month when the Society for Applied Spectroscopy honored him with the Graduate Student Award for Outstanding Research in Spectroscopy.
Juris Meija has excelled in science for so long that he probably was not surprised last month when the Society for Applied Spectroscopy honored him with the Graduate Student Award for Outstanding Research in Spectroscopy. The award came at the 31st annual meeting of the Federation of Analytical Chemistry and Spectroscopy Societies in Portland, Oregon.
Born in Latvia, Meija was invited to study in a special physics school to prepare him for the International Physics Olympiads. He eventually turned his attention to chemistry and won bronze medals in the 1997 and 1998 International Chemistry Olympiads. After graduating summa cum laude from the University of Latvia in 2001, he joined the research group of McMicken’s Joseph Caruso to pursue doctoral studies in the field of selenium speciation. Caruso, who nominated Meija, describes him as “one of the brightest and most capable graduate students I have met in the past 40 years.”
The young chemistry guru sees his primary research as important but not difficult to understand: “I study selenium compounds in plants. Selenium is the key element in our immunodefense systems, and we are using plants to see the compounds in nature and how they behave. Spectroscopy is just the set of techniques with which we gather information about these otherwise invisible molecules.”
Not all of Meija’s time is spent with plants, however. He does not consider himself “a regular type of scientist” because he is interested in multidisciplinary scientific research.
This diverse approach has led to his having authored or co-authored 17 publications, two books, and 10 popular scientific articles.
Noting that he enjoys “the aesthetical aspect of science as much the ‘informational’ part,” he also does graphic design that connects art and science. Some of his renderings have appeared on the covers of journals and books, and he still has time to enjoy classical music and opera.
And just to prove that he is always on the lookout for new experiences, Meija remarked that the most interesting feature of the trip to receive his award was that it “it included an opportunity to be so close to Mount St. Helen at just about the time it might have erupted.”
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