Beginning his career as welder and a representative of Canada’s armed forces, Paul Ragogna, an associate professor in the department of Chemistry, was recently acknowledged by the Canadian Society for Chemistry for having made an outstanding contribution to inorganic chemistry in Canada and for demonstrating exceptional promise in this field.
The 2014 Strem Chemicals Award for Pure or Applied Inorganic Chemistry recognised the Ragogna group’s body of work encompassing both fundamental and applied research focusing primarily on phosphorous chemistry. The group engages in a highly productive cycle in which fundamental research leads to outcomes that can be applied to industrial problem-solving while also working on industrial challenges in order to discover fascinating elements of fundamental chemistry. According to Ragogna, “We use atoms like tinker-toys to build unusual and fascinating fundamental structures. Then you add the industrial problem-solving opportunities to the mix and it forces everyone to expand their brain, look beyond their fundamental research and ask the questions that lead to concrete applications.”
A graduate of Brock and Dalhousie Universities, Ragogna was first inspired to explore the chemical world in a first-year undergraduate chemistry course taught by Mary-Francis Richardson. His passion for inorganic chemistry was ignited in Steve Hartman’s lab during the summer between his second and third years of undergraduate study. “We worked with highly reactive, air sensitive compounds and I found that just incredibly intriguing”, commented the award-winning researcher. By year-three there was a heavy course emphasis on transition metal chemistry. The colours of the transition metal compounds were spectacular according to Ragogna and he subsequently became interested in inorganic chemistry and pursued this field of research during his graduate studies.
It’s been ten years since Ragogna graduated with a PhD from Dalhousie and his research interests have once again been focused in the direction of applied and fundamental phosphorous chemistry. “It’s turned out to be a central theme in my chemical life”, he reminisced. Moving forward, Ragogna hopes to expand the depth and breadth of his group’s collaborations to include physicians, implant experts and materials engineers to begin addressing anti-microbial research questions.
For now, Ragogna is scheduled to deliver an award-winner presentation in Vancouver at the Canadian Society for Chemistry on June 4 and share his passion for inorganic chemistry through a series of talks at primarily undergraduate universities across Canada.