Professor emeritus receives prestigious international award for contributions to field of chemistry

Five people standing on a stage in front of a podium. The person in the centre is holding a certificate and the person beside them is holding up an award.

Professor Emeritus Gary Schrobilgen was awarded the European Academy of Sciences’ (EurASc) Blaise Pascal Medal in Chemistry (2022) at a ceremony in Brussels, Belgium on October 25th. (From left to right) EurASc President Professor Rodrigo Martins, EurASc Vice-President Professor Alain Tressaud, Maître Hélène de Rode, Professor Emeritus Gary Schrobilgen and Head of EurASc’s Chemistry Division Professor Pierre Braunstein. (Photo courtesy the European Academy of Sciences).

Gary Schrobilgen, a professor emeritus in the Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology, has been awarded the prestigious Blaise Pascal Medal for his contributions to the advances of science in the field of chemistry.

Established in 2003 and named after the 17th century French mathematician and philosopher, the Blaise Pascal Medal is awarded to outstanding scientists around the world who have demonstrated a personal contribution to science and technology and the promotion of excellence in research and education.

A headshot of Gary Schrobilgen enclosed in a maroon circle
Gary Schrobilgen is a professor emeritus in the Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology

“I am happy that the fundamental chemistry I have chosen to pursue here at McMaster has been recognized by an award whose namesake, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), is universally recognized for fundamental achievements in mathematics and physics that underpin numerous aspects of modern technology,” says Schrobilgen.

Schrobilgen was awarded the medal by The European Academy of Sciences at a ceremony in Brussels, Belgium in October. The researcher also delivered an address entitled, ‘Chemistry at the Edge of the Periodic Table,’ in which he highlighted several of his most recent and significant discoveries in the fields of noble-gas chemistry and fluorine chemistry.

The professor emeritus, who has collected many of the most prestigious awards in his field, is recognized worldwide as the specialist of fluorinated compounds of noble gases and species with very high oxidation degrees.

A fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, his research field, fluorine chemistry, has numerous applications in nuclear power generation, photovoltaic and semiconductor materials, refrigerants, advanced rocket propellants and microelectronics. Schrobilgen has also applied his research to practical problems around medical imaging, the uranium re-enrichment cycle and high-energy density materials.

An award sitting in a black velvet case. The award reads ‘Blaise Pascal Medal for Science and Technology’ and features an image of Blaise Pascal.
The Blaise Pascal Medals, awarded by the European Academy of Sciences (EurASc) annually, recognize the work of the world’s best scientists in the fields of physics, mathematics, engineering, materials science, medicine, earth sciences, social sciences and humanities and chemistry.

“I have primarily pursued fundamental, curiosity-driven research projects because I strongly believe that (1) those who have demonstrated their ability to do good science are the best judges of what they should work on and that (2) fundamental science and its discoveries (especially unexpected ones) are essential for the advancement of applied technologies,” says Schrobilgen.

Giuseppe Melacini, the acting chair of the Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology, says the award marks a major recognition of Schrobilgen’s numerous accomplishments.

“It is wonderful to see how our strong history of excellence in chemistry at McMaster, which includes giants such as Ron Gillespie and Richard Bader, continues to date,” says Melacini.

Schrobilgen did his PhD research in inorganic chemistry at McMaster under the supervision of influential researcher Ron Gillespie, graduating in 1974.

He says Gillespie’s example in encouraging independent and innovative thought and practice — and giving students the freedom to find their own research paths — served him well when he established his own research group at McMaster.

Schrobilgen’s accomplishments in teaching and his dedication to mentorship earned him the President’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision in 1997.

“During my research career at McMaster, I was fortunate to have bright and dedicated students and postdoctoral fellows who love chemistry, found it was fun, and did it very well,” says Schrobilgen.

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