After it was announced that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, chemistry professor Peter Mahaffy began receiving dozens of messages congratulating him for the part he and his research team at The King’s University College in Edmonton, Alberta, played in OPCW winning this award.
“We are thrilled with the news of this well-deserved honor for OPCW, which has been working tirelessly for a world free of chemical weapons,” said Mahaffy, a member of the OPCW Temporary Working Group on Education and Outreach.
“OPCW works to raise public awareness,” Mahaffy explained, “in addition to its important scientific work of verification and implementation of legal and political frameworks. We are pleased that King’s students and faculty have contributed so meaningfully to this work by creating a rich set of interactive web resources to help the public understand the responsibility that each of us has to ensure that chemicals are used responsibly and for beneficial purposes.”
Most recently, Mahaffy teamed up with colleague Brian Martin and several King’s students, led by fourth-year chemistry student Joseph Zondervan, to create the Multiple Uses of Chemicals website for an international audience of students, educators, and policymakers. OPCW was working to publicize the site when chemical weapons were used on August 21 in Syria, killing more than 1,000 people outside Damascus.
The materials created for the website cover the beneficial uses, misuses, and abuses of multi-use chemicals, both historically and presently, and introduces the Chemical Weapons Convention. Users are invited to explore what is being done to monitor the abuse of multi-use chemicals and to discover the responsibilities of both scientists and the public in responding to the misuse of chemicals, such as in the production of chemical weapons.
“Our King’s mission statement speaks of inspiring and equipping learners to bring renewal and reconciliation to every walk of life as followers of Jesus Christ, the Servant-King,” Mahaffy said. “The work King’s students and faculty have done in support of OPCW is work of waging peace, and that flows squarely out of our mission as The King’s University College.”
The Nobel Peace Prize came just days before Syria officially joined OPCW as its 190th member.
Professors Mahaffy and Martin are both members of Edmonton’s Fellowship Christian Reformed Church.