McGee Lecture Series

The Henry A. McGee Lectures in Chemical and Life Science Engineering honor the founding dean of VCU’s School of Engineering, Henry A. McGee, who is also a distinguished Emeritus professor in the Chemical and Life Science Engineering department. The lecture series is made possible by the Betty Rose and Henry McGee Endowment for Chemical Engineering. Learn more about Dr. Henry McGee.

Event Details

April 28, 2022 from 2–3 p.m.
Engineering Research Building, Room 1313


Piero Baglioni, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair of Physical Chemistry
Department of Chemistry and CSGI
University of Florence
Florence, Italy

Lecture title: New methods and materials for the conservation of Cultural Heritage: from renaissance frescoes to modern and contemporary art

Piero Baglioni, Ph.D.


Piero Baglioni is the chair of Physical Chemistry at the Department of Chemistry of the University of Florence and MIT affiliate. He was appointed as Visiting Scientist/Professor by the Department of Chemistry of the University of Houston, the Weizmann Institute, the Collège de France, and the MIT. He is the Director of the National Center for Colloid and Surface Science (CSGI) and he is in the Editorial/Advisory Board of several intentional Journals and member of several national and international Institutions and Societies (European Academy of Science, Academia Europaea, Swedish Royal Academy of Science and Art, etc.).

Baglioni is the author of more than 500 publications on books and largely diffused international journals. He is also the author of 27 patents. For his scientific activity he received several international recognitions, including the Rhodia Prize from the European Colloids and Interface Society (ECIS), the European Grand Prix for Innovation Awards; the JCIS - Darsh Wasan Award; “The Caballero Aguila” (highest award from the INHA, Mexican Federal Government; the "Catedra de Fisica, University of San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Chen Distinguished Lectureship on Neutron Science and Technology, Taiwan Ministry of Science and Technology and National Tsing Hua University, The Overbeek medal, The Japan Chemical Society Award, etc.

In the field of Conservation Science he pioneered methods and materials, based on Soft Matter, for the conservation of Cultural Heritage, as nanoparticles, in particular of calcium and magnesium hydroxide and carbonates, micellar systems and microemulsions, chemical hydrogels and organogels. These are nowadays worldwide used.


We pioneered one of the most exotic applications of soft matter and materials science to conservation of cultural heritage. Art Conservation poses a formidable and exciting challenge to soft matter-colloid scientists in two respects. First, the majority of the most performing and environmentally safe cleaning and consolidation agents for artworks are soft matter systems. Second, the interaction of these agents with the artifact involves an exceptionally complicated range of interfacial interactions. Works of art surfaces interacting with the environment are the most prone to aging and decay; accordingly, soiling is a prime factor in the degradation of surfaces, chemical and mechanical degradation are often associated to soiling and lead to the disfigurement of a piece of art. The effects of these processes are strongly amplified in the presence of protective coatings (mainly acrylic and vinyl polymers), usually applied in previous restoration treatments. We pioneered the synthesis and the application of several advanced systems for the consolidation and the cleaning of works of art, as hydroxides nanoparticles, microemulsions and chemical gels (hydrogels and organogels). I will give an overview of the progresses in the field from material and soft matter sciences perspective focusing on the main progresses and perspectives of recently developed gels, i.e. Twin-chain polymer hydrogels based on poly(vinyl alcohol) that constitute a new advanced tool for the cleaning of modern and contemporary art. These systems mark a paradigm shift in modern conservation and have been used on classic, modern and contemporary artifacts as wall paintings of Beato Angelico, Piero della Francesca, or on modern and contemporary art as paintings by Picasso, Lichtenstein, Pollock, de Chirico, and so on.

Past Speakers

  • 2021–Dong-Pyo Kim, Ph.D.
  • 2020–Monty Alger, Ph.D.
  • 2019–Klavs Jensen, Ph.D.
  • 2018–Babatunde Ogunnaike, Ph.D.
  • 2017–Robert Prud'homme, Ph.D.
  • 2016–Gregory Stephanopoulos, Ph.D.
  • 2015–Vicki L. Colvin, Ph.D.
  • 2014–Benny D. Freeman, Ph.D.
  • 2013–Mark E. Davis, Ph.D.
  • 2012–Jay Keasling, Ph.D.
  • 2011–Joseph M. DeSimone, Ph.D.
  • 2010–Charles Liotta, Ph.D.