Juris Meija, the NRC's element expert

- Ottawa, Ontario

Juris Meija

In celebration of National Periodic Table Day on February 7, we highlight the NRC's element expert: Juris Meija, from the Metrology Research Centre. Juris, a Senior Research Officer with the Inorganic Chemical Metrology team, is well known for his work contributing to improve the data that underlies the isotopic compositions of the elements.

After earning his PhD in analytical chemistry at the University of Cincinnati (USA), Juris came to the NRC as a post-doc in 2005, and has worked here ever since. Juris' work entails research to help improve the reliability of chemical measurements through the development of certified reference materials, and a better understanding of isotope ratio measurements.

Among his international engagements, Juris serves as the chairman of the Commission on Isotopic Abundances and Atomic Weights, the oldest commission within the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). In this role, he has taken part in the naming of the last 7 elements, and contributed to updating the standard atomic weights of at least 4 elements at the NRC. For Juris, the most rewarding aspect of his work is seeing the changes show up in the periodic table, websites, and books worldwide.

Last year being the International Year of the Periodic Table (IYPT), IUPAC chose the top 118 chemists under 40 around the world, and awarded them each an element to represent. Juris received osmium, an element he also represented in Chemistry World's (The Royal Society of Chemistry) updated version of Tom Lehrer's Elements Song. During the IYPT, Juris also co-chaired IUPAC's Periodic Table Challenge, which saw participants from all continents and 136 countries! They even had 13 chemistry Nobel Laureates to sign periodic table posters as prizes.

Juris enjoys talking about the periodic table, and has been a regular guest on CBC's The Element of Surprise radio series with host Alan Neal. He was invited to speak about elements: arsenic, nihonium, nobelium and livermorium.