What do you teach at Ca’ Foscari? What are your main research interests?
I teach organic chemistry and have always connected teaching this discipline with my research interests in green chemistry, i.e. chemistry developed with respect for the environment and human health. Today, these aspects seem almost obvious: we find them transversally addressed not only in chemistry, but in any area, from science and technology to economics and society. However, at the beginning of my academic career, some thirty years ago, this was not the case. So I like to think that I have contributed to creating this awareness towards the general issue of caring for and protecting the environment in the generations of young chemists who have attended my lectures and in the many among them whom I have had the pleasure of getting to know better as my undergraduates and PhD students and with whom I have shared my research.
What are you most passionate about in your research?
The question is intriguing, but it is equally difficult to find an answer. For me, making a new discovery often meant finding a new molecule with the same functionality (reactivity) that was harmless or less dangerous than others that already existed, or a new procedure for preparing chemical compounds that met the requirements of a lower environmental impact both in the use of reagents and solvents and in waste production. This is very exciting in itself, and in most cases it is curiosity-driven, i.e. driven by the researcher's flair and passion. But equally relevant and attractive is then to put your fundamental knowledge into practice by studying the challenges of technology transfer and facing businesses.
What is the connection between your research and the city of Venice?
I am from Venice and, although I have often and for a long time lived abroad for professional reasons, I have had the chance and the pleasure of continuing to live in Venice, a place I deeply love for its uniqueness. Unfortunately, Venice has changed dramatically over the last few decades, as a result of short-sighted and indiscriminate tourist exploitation, very often without any political guidance that looked at the real good and needs of the city. I want to think that my research in sustainable chemistry is part of a broader body of studies and disciplines aimed at reducing the impact of human activities on ecosystems and, in this sense, at contributing not only culturally but also actively to maintaining and developing fragile environments in need of attention such as Venice. I believe that the investigations and innovation generated by scientific and technological progress are the real challenge that the city must take up in order to become a modern international reference that combines the invaluable historical heritage with a new project for sustainable growth. My dream: converting large areas of the city centre (the Arsenal, the former Lido hospital complex, etc.) that are now underused or disused, into highly specialised research and development hubs, developed to enhance the city's prestige and attract investment in sustainable growth geared towards creating a stable, resident industry.