From 1950 until 1968 he worked at the National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa, first as a post-doctoral fellow and then as a research scientist. In 1968, he was appointed Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Ottawa, and in 1989 he retired as Professor Emeritus. He was renowned in the field of biochemistry for his discovery of the isopranyl glycerol diether lipids of Halobacterium and other members of the Halobacteriaceae. Among biochemists, Morris Kates is also best known for his textbook ‘Techniques in Lipidiology’ (1972, revised in 2010). Altogether Morris wrote about 250 scientific papers on lipid biochemistry and lipid metabolism. He received the Excellence in Research Award (1981), the Supelco Award for lipid research from the American Oil Chemist Society (1984) and was nominated as Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (1973).
Lipid biochemistry was one field in which Morris Kates was famous, music was the second. He published more than 20 compositions that include orchestral works, chamber music, choral works, and more. He showed an interest in his compositions in Impressionism, twelve-tone technique, neoclassicism, and more recently, Renaissance music. His major works are: Variations for Strings (1964), Symphonia for Strings (1967), Sonata for Cello and Piano (1973), Piano Trio “Hommage à Einstein” (1979), Elegiac Variations for Solo ‘Cello (1984), Woodwind Quintet (1988), Sonata for Double Bass and Piano (1989), and Festine Suite (1990). The first two of these compositions won him the CBC (Ottawa) Music Award for 1965 and 1967, respectively. Variations for Strings and Festive Suite have been performed by the University of Ottawa Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Currie. He was an Associate Composer with the Canadian Music Centre and a member of the Canadian League of Composers.