RIT/NTID’s Todd Pagano Wins National Award

Story Highlights: 
  • Todd Pagano has been  teaching at RIT/NTID for 10 years.
  • Several Nobel Prize winners are attending the conference.
  • Pagano was named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society.

Todd Pagano, an associate professor and director of Laboratory Science Technology at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, has received the American Chemical Society Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences.

That award, sponsored by The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, comes with $15,000 for RIT/NTID to help further promote students interested in science.

The award was presented to Pagano this week in San Diego, Calif., during a national meeting of the American Chemical Society. The award was presented by Bassam Shakhashiri, president of the ACS, and Richard Zare, a board member of the Dreyfus Foundation and chair of the Chemistry Department at Stanford University.

“To have Todd honored nationally not only confirms what we have always known – that he is a great educator – but he is also recognized by his peers for being one of the best in his field,” says NTID President Gerry Buckley, who attended the event.

Pagano said the ceremony was like “The Academy Awards for Chemistry. It was a great evening, sharing the table with Dr. Zare and other great chemists.”

Pagano was also keynote speaker for the ACS Professional Relations Division to talk about his 10-year teaching career at RIT/NTID and the attitudes he’s helped change in terms of what deaf students can accomplish.

It is just one of many accolades Pagano has recently received:

  • Last year Pagano was named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society, one of 213 scientists who have demonstrated outstanding accomplishments in chemistry and made important contributions to the ACS, the world’s largest scientific society.
  • In February, Pagano, a principle investigator on four research projects, was given an RIT College Research Award. He was selected as NTID’s recipient of the honor for a wide variety of fundamental chemical investigations, ranging from chemical studies on wetlands to toxicity in electronic cigarettes, as well as his leadership in pedagogical development in teaching chemistry to students with disabilities.
  • And this month, his research findings impacting drinking water treatment were printed in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring, published in England by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Pagano, of Chili, N.Y., has served on the Rochester chapter of ACS’s executive board and the ACS’s Chemists with Disabilities national joint-board. He has taken nearly 20 of his students over the years to give presentations at national conferences. “They are the only associate degree level students presenting,” he says. “They are the only deaf students presenting. And on three occasions, they’ve been recognized with research presentation awards, competing against hundreds of other students.”

Two of his students, Ryan Spector, of Kings Park, N.Y., and James Macisco, of Stratford, Conn., accompanied him to the five-day meeting in California to give a presentation on their research on environmental contamination in water samples taken from the upstate New York’s Finger Lakes and from around the world.

Pagano said they did “a phenomenal job” and he received many comments from his colleagues about how impressed they were with the student presentations.

“People in the audience are always impressed, not only by our students’ scientific knowledge, which is published often, but also their sophistication in navigating communication barriers,” Pagano says. “When my students finish presenting at these conferences, the audience always leaves in awe.”

Spector, who also was selected to be NTID’s college delegate for RIT’s commencement ceremony this spring, says that Pagano “is one of the best professors I have ever had.

He teaches in a way that allows students to grasp even the most difficult topics in science. He cares for his students and wants everyone to succeed. And he makes classes so much fun. One example is he explained how molecules behave when hit by ultraviolet light by asking volunteers from the class to act it out.”

Macisco says Pagano encourages his natural interest in energy and research. “He is the epitome of what all teachers should strive for and perhaps one of the greatest people I know.”

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