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Robert Rafka

Contributor II
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Dr. Robert Rafka has two great loves in life, chemistry and gardening and he’s been avidly pursuing both since he was a child back in central New York.

Bob began his training in chemistry at Syracuse University. His initial research project was on organoboron-mediated aldol reactions under the supervision of Professor Ei-ichi Negishi. He joined the ACS there as a student affiliate in 1979 and graduated in 1981, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.

He holds a Ph.D. degree in carbohydrate chemistry from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario where he studied under the direction of Professor Walter Szarek.

Bob completed his academic career as a post-doc at the Monell Center in Philadelphia where he was a Corn Refiners Association National Fellow.

He was employed as a chemist at Pfizer in Groton, CT from 1987 to 2012 and retired as an Associate Research Fellow. He is an author on 13 scientific papers, an inventor on 7 US patents, and was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Chemistry Society in 2011. He now teaches science at Fitch High School in Groton, CT.

Bob completed the URI Master Gardener course in 1998 and, because of his chemistry background, quickly gravitated towards projects that were soil-related. He was a 2011 inductee in the URI Master Gardener Hall of Fame with over 1250 hours served in and around Rhode Island.

Bob is frequent lecturer and teaches the URI Master Gardener and Master Composter classes. He teaches the UConn Master Composters as well as the Western Massachusetts Master Gardeners. Additionally, he lectures as part of the Northeast Organic Farmers certification course, Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom, and in the Rhode Island prison system (Men’s maximum, men’s medium, and women’s minimum security facilities).


Gardening Science and Gardening Superstition…The Latter May Be Better Than You Think

Successful gardeners are adept at passing down best practices. For generations, doing this or adding that at an appointed time has been known to result in better harvests or a healthier house plants. Some of these practices often appear to border on superstition, yet they’re passed from one generation to the next because they actually work. As a Master Gardener, I frequently interact with the gardening public and relish the opportunity to collect, ponder, and eventually shed some scientific light on these ritualistic practices. In tonight’s lecture, I’ll describe a number of time-honored gardening practices then attempt to explain the chemistry that makes them succeed.


455 Taugwonk Rd, Stonington, CT 06378


Home: 860-535-4467

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