Chances are if you’re working in environmental chemistry today you have heard of (and probably even used) the Mackay models to measure the wide-ranging impacts of chemicals on ecosystems. But what of the innovative, big-picture thinker behind the models?
Professor emeritus Dr. Donald Mackay is the man behind the models, a legendary figure in environmental chemistry circles who both literally and figuratively wrote the book on multimedia fugacity models. Multimedia fugacity models allow researchers and regulators to calculate how chemicals behave in the environment, where they accumulate, how they persist, and how they make their way into the food webs of wildlife and humans. For his outstanding contributions to science, Prof. Mackay has been recognized with the Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee award, Order of Canada, Honda prize and other international and national awards.
Prof. Mackay first came to Trent in the early 1990s and found a community of scholars that offered something different – which he notes “was largely due to the vision of Dr. Tom Symons. It was responsive to the need for a university response to important social issues [including] environmental issues”.
With strong connections to industry he founded the Canadian Environmental Modelling Centre (CEMC) in 1995. Over the past two decades the CEMC has been a consortium of researchers in a wide variety of environmental applications. Trent is now dedicating the Canadian Environmental Modelling Centre, to honour Prof. Mackay’s legacy and the space located on the fourth floor of Bata Library will now be known as the “Don Mackay Environmental Modelling Room”.
“It’s not easy to create an interdisciplinary group like the CEMC, but I do believe that a university’s status in society and its ability to attract students depends heavily on its ability to create groups that will respond to social issues,” noted Prof. Mackay at the naming event. “I believe that the CEMC, the School of the Environment and Environmental Resource Studies have the capability to collaborate and create in very significant ways.”
Prof. Mackay’s impact is far-reaching across academia, industry and regulatory bodies, also notable is his influence on the next generation of academics and researchers in Environmental Chemistry, including Alena Celsie, a Ph.D. candidate in the Trent-Queens Chemistry Ph.D. program, who reflects on the mentorship she has received stating that, “working with Don has inspired me, changed my life and made me feel not only more hopeful about the future but also like anyone, including me, can change it. Everyone in the field of environmental modelling knows of him and I think everyone who has met him has been inspired by his generosity, innovation, and desire to make the world a better place.”