What do you teach at Ca’ Foscari? What are your main research interests?
I teach organic chemistry and green chemistry. In my research group we study new organic reactions and new chemicals that are safe, non-polluting and environmentally friendly. I transfer this new knowledge when I teach in the Bachelor's and Master's degree programmes in Sustainable Chemistry and Technology. The aim is to train young scientists who are sensitive to the development and implementation of new chemical technologies and processes that combine environmental and health protection with the production of goods and substances typical of the chemical industry, and with the reduction of waste and pollution in a circular economy perspective.
Tell us about your academic path.
After graduating in Industrial Chemistry at Ca' Foscari, I won a Fulbright scholarship to do my PhD in Chemistry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, USA. Once I completed this last cycle of study, I returned to Venice as a post-doc researcher and then as a researcher, associate professor and then, from 2020, as a full professor. In 2007, through funding from the Australian government for an Endeavour grant, I spent time as a visiting researcher at the University of Sydney where I began a partnership that led to an agreement for a joint PhD with that university. Some of our best students benefit from this agreement and spend a year researching in Australia.
What's an area you have always wanted to be involved in but have not yet had the opportunity to explore?
Among the great future challenges for chemistry is the generation of hydrogen - the energy carrier of the future - from water, and the conversion of carbon dioxide into complex organic substances, as plants do through photosynthesis. Both these processes require large amounts of energy. The alternative we are now beginning to explore is based on new materials that can transform light energy into chemical energy and thus develop artificial photosynthetic processes based on sunlight.
What are you most passionate about in your research?
Chemistry explains how matter is transformed. Being able to harness them and use them to discover new syntheses and new products gives purpose to my work. If this is done with the environment and health in mind, it is even more satisfying.
Have you always known that this was going to be your path?
Although in high school I took classical studies, I always knew that I would follow my scientific vocation. Initially I thought about physics, but I quickly realised that I was more interested in a discipline that allowed me to play with molecules, to understand and modify their behaviour. I am very practical, so I find it really rewarding to be able to solve a synthetic problem and to be able to put an idea or intuition into practice through a simple chemical experiment.