Graduating co-op student spent year in Nova Scotia working on leading edge of renewable battery science

A woman holding a plastic iced coffee cup smiling at the camera. There is greenery behind her.

Breanna Pinto should be named an honorary Nova Scotian when she receives her honours bachelor of science degree during Spring Convocation.

The sustainable chemistry student spent a year doing co-ops in the Maritime province, with four months as a research assistant at the Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and Environment at Cape Breton University followed by eight months as a cell materials engineer intern with Tesla in Halifax. While constructing and testing an apparatus for monitoring battery degradation at Tesla, Pinto also worked on the leading edge of Li-ion battery science with professor Jeff Dahn’s research group at Dalhousie University.

Pinto, who was born and raised in Mississauga, had friends but no relatives in the province. She’d been out east once before years ago during a family road trip – they spent a couple days in Nova Scotia.

“I never would’ve imagined it would be my future home for 12 months as a Mac student.”

Doing the second co-op in Nova Scotia had been a pure coincidence.

Camping near the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island was one of Pinto’s 2022 highlights and she loved living in Halifax the following year. “It’s a lot smaller and rainier than the big city that I’m used to but that’s part of its charm.”

Back at McMaster, Pinto continued her work on rechargeable batteries as a research assistant with the Magnetic Resonance & Material for Energy Storage Lab led by professor and Chemistry & Chemical Biology department chair Gillian Goward.

“Breanna was a delight to have in our research group,” says Goward, who plans to hood Pinto during Convocation. “Breanna joined our group during the pandemic and was thrilled to have a reason to come on campus in-person.”

After working on a project with PhD student mentor Chris Franko, Pinto began her thesis on Zn-ion batteries in a new collaboration between the research group and Salient Energy. Pinto’s research demonstrated for the first time that magnetic resonance strategies could be used to evaluate the electrochemical performance of the batteries.

“It’s always bittersweet when great students leave the group and Pinto is absolutely an example of this.”

Pinto also volunteered with the Student Sustainability Ambassador Program and worked as a teaching assistant where she directed, supervised and marked first-year students in chemistry labs.

Her best day at McMaster? Presenting her fourth-year thesis during Chemistry & Chemical Biology’s Presentation Day and sitting in on the presentations from her classmates. “Learning from my peers was so fun and rewarding.”

Pinto then traveled to the west coast for an encore presentation of her thesis at the Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition in Vancouver. She won the third place undergraduate poster prize in analytical chemistry at the annual conference hosted by the Chemical Institute of Canada.

“I couldn’t have chosen a better and more fulfilling undergraduate research experience,” says Pinto. “Dr. Goward, Olivia Velenosi and everyone in the Goward Group offered endless support, kindness and invaluable knowledge.”

There were also McMaster staff beyond Chemistry & Chemical Biology whose small acts of kindness made a big difference for Pinto. There were the custodial staff who wished her good morning every day during her first year at Mac as she left her student residence for 8:30 a.m. lectures. And there was the cafeteria worker who called Pinto “sunshine” and kept her well caffeinated.

“There are plenty of people who I’ll never know beyond their passing warmth or reliable assistance but they brightened many a day for me and their kindness did not go unnoticed.”

Pinto is spending her summer working as an energy efficiency program assistant with Green Venture.

Click here for stories, videos and highlights from Spring 2024 convocation ceremonies and celebration events

Related Stories