Barry Shell Organic Chemistry

Answers general questions for Ask-A-Scientist

"I've always liked science because the world can be a strange place but the rationality of science is a comfort in confusing times."

The Story

Barry Shell is a retired writer living in Vancouver. Shell worked at Simon Fraser University where he wrote about research for 27 years. He wrote and published the SFU Research Matters newsletter, the Library Update newsletter, and many research-related websites as well as SFU Research YouTube site, and numerous brochures. He also organized popular speaker series and other research promotion activities on campus.  

Shell has written four books and many freelance articles. Originally from Winnipeg, he has a BSc in Organic Chemistry from Reed College in Portland, OR (1974) and an MSc in Resource Management Science from UBC (1985).  His book Sensational Scientists (Raincoast Books) won a national book award in 2005. Shell's freelance works have appeared in the Globe and Mail, Equinox, Adbusters, and the Georgia Straight plus numerous appearances on CBC Vancouver radio talk shows The Early Edition, BC Almanac, U-TV News, CBC TV News, and the Discovery Channel. His work has been published online in The New York Times, Scientific American, and many other websites.

Shell is the founder of the GCS Research Society, a British Columbia non-profit that operates this website, the top Google hit for any search on Canadian science. From 2008 - 2012 Shell served on the board of CIRA, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, a non-profit responsible for the .ca domain name. In his retirement Shell enjoys cycling, woodworking, gardening, cooking and perfumery hobbies. He also plays sax and flute in a Vancouver pop band. Shell would like to serve on boards involved in education, parks or housing.


How the nose works. Why we sleep. Why cats purr. 

The Person

Winnipeg, Manitoba
Vancouver, BC
Favorite Music
Bach, Beatles, Bossa Nova
Other Interests
Bicycling, gardening, sax & flutes
Research Communications Manager
Simon Fraser University
  • BSc (Organic Chemistry) Reed College, Portland, OR 1973
  • MSc (Resource Management) UBC, 1983
  • Science in Society Book Award, Canadian Science Writers Association, 2005
Marshal Cronyn, Chemistry professor at Reed who taught how to go to the source.
Last Updated
July 9, 2016

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question #172

Why when you make lollypops do you have to boil the ingredients to 300 degrees for it to harden?

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