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High Honours and HQP Impact

Today was our honours chemistry defence day, arguably one of my most favourite days of the year. Our honours students have spent a year honing their skills, exploring new science, and developing into fantastically capable chemists. I am always in awe of their accomplishments.

Taylor did a bang up job on her honours thesis defence today, she really did. I was so proud of her, as I always am of my students. They make my heart sing. It's the academic mama in me I suppose. Taylor worked hard, worked through her research hurdles, kept to deadlines, and studied. She read her thesis, she questioned what she wrote, and she practiced, practiced, practiced. It really was a treat. She'll be with our group for another few months, and then she will stretch her wings and leave the nest for graduate school. She's even got NSERC funding of her own, if she needs it. Superb. We will miss her, of course.

One of the challenges of doing research at a primarily undergraduate university is having your contributions to highly qualified personnel (HQP) training consistently undervalued. "Not enough HQP". "Moderate". These words are a death knell to an active and vibrant research program. Frankly they hurt, especially when your lab is full to capacity with smiling faces, eager to learn, supported by your small operating grant(s).

I'd like to take this opportunity to remind every reviewer, everywhere, that at a small place like SMU - we often send our best out into the world, to you. They come fully trained, fully nurtured, and often fully funded. Sometimes we keep our best to ourselves (I'm looking at you M, N, R, O, S - the list goes on). But if they decide that somewhere else is where they want to be - we lift them up and guide them forward. So if this is you, Reviewer 2, and you benefit from fantastic undergraduates or graduate students that have come from smaller institutions, stand up for us! Cheer us on! Acknowledge the important work we do with limited funding and a strong bias against us. We are part of the equation, we are part of the foundation, we are part of why you, well- funded researcher, are successful.

Congratulations Taylor, and to all other undergrads defending this time of year. Well done! For those of you just starting out on this path, enjoy the journey, with all its hills and valleys - and always thank the people who make your successes possible.

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