Four researchers receive preeminent award at Dal

Meet Dal's newest Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Chairs

- July 12, 2021

Left to right: Afua Cooper, Jeanna Parsons Leigh, Mita Dasog, and Kevin Plucknett are Dal's new Killam Chairs. (File photos)
Left to right: Afua Cooper, Jeanna Parsons Leigh, Mita Dasog, and Kevin Plucknett are Dal's new Killam Chairs. (File photos)

Researchers from the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences, Engineering, Science, and Health, have been named as Dalhousie’s newest Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Chairs. The Killam Chairs are awarded to academics of the highest distinction at Dalhousie with appointments of up to five years.

Dalhousie is one of five recognized Killam Institutions. Since Izaak Killam was originally from Yarmouth and had many business interests in his home province, the university was a logical choice to receive Killam funds (and was the largest single recipient).

“Dalhousie University is proud to be a Killam Institution and we are thrilled to have these outstanding individuals as members of our research community,” says Alice Aiken, Dalhousie’s vice-president research and innovation. “Congratulations to Dr. Cooper, Dr. Plucknett, Dr. Dasog, and Dr. Parsons Leigh. Your recognition is well deserved.”

Meet the new Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Chairs:

Afua Cooper, Faculty of Arts and Social Science

Dr. Cooper is perhaps best known to the Dalhousie community for her academic pursuits, including serving as the past James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies, leading the Black and African Disapora Studies minor, founding the Black Canadian Studies Association and the Dalhousie Black Faculty and Staff Caucus, as well as chairing the Scholarly Panel on Lord Dalhousie’s Relationship to Race and Slavery.

She has also had an accomplished career as a nationally recognized artist, author and poet, and has written books spanning genres from fiction and non-fiction to poetry and children’s literature. She is one of the founders of the Dub Poetry movement in Canada, and served as poet laureate of Halifax from 2018-2020.

Kevin Plucknett, Faculty of Engineering

Dr. Plucknett has 30 years of academic, national laboratory and industrial experience in advanced materials and manufacturing. His research in advanced engineering materials covers a variety of areas including: advanced structural and functional ceramics, lightweight metals, composites and coatings, energy materials, solid foams and porous materials, soft-solid biopolymers, additive manufacturing, electron microscopy, and associated characterization techniques.

His work has an industrial focus, and has resulted in over 160 journal and conference publications, and more than 190 industrial/sponsor reports. His research team has also spun out three Nova Scotia-based companies in recent years.

Mita Dasog, Faculty of Science

Dr. Dasog’s internationally-recognized research program in the Faculty of Science has the potential for significant global impact on issues such as our dependence on fossil fuels and access to freshwater. Her research group focuses on developing nanomaterials for sustainable fuel production, desalination, and water purification, all using sunlight. Mimicking photosynthesis with synthetic inorganic materials is an up-and-coming approach to harvesting solar energy.

She has been recognized with many awards and honours, including a President’s Research Excellence Award (Emerging Investigator), selection as one of 118 outstanding chemists from around the world for the IUPAC Table of Younger Chemists,  chosen to be a member of the Global Young Academy and celebrated by Chemistry and Engineering News as part of their initiative highlighting Women in Science.

Jeanna Parsons Leigh, Faculty of Health

Dr. Parsons Leigh’s primary area of expertise is enhanced health systems performance, health communication, and knowledge translation. Since joining the Faculty of Health in January 2020, she has honed this expertise to establish a successful cross-national research program focused on optimizing public health emergency preparedness in Canada. The program studies the needs and capabilities of health systems, communities and individuals to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from, public health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Parsons Leigh also has advanced training in equity, diversity, and inclusion and applies this lens across the spectrum of her research. Notably, her work has been a catalyst for national and international professional associations to make evidence-informed improvements towards gender equity.

More information on the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Chairs, visit

See also: Brain Trust: Dal’s Killam Scholars have made remarkable contributions in their fields (DAL Magazine)


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