Chemical Bonds – Profile of the Dr. Manohar and Raminder Sood Graduate Fellowship

May 27, 2024 by Alyx Dellamonica

The 2024 Department of Chemistry Awards Ceremony will be held this Wednesday, May 29th and among the awards given this spring will be the Dr. Manohar and Raminder Sood Graduate Fellowship, which has been awarded to Shrey Desai. 

The award was created by the Sood family and endowed through their company Reena Group of Companies, a family operation which includes many Chemistry alumni, including CEO Dr. Christian Sood. We asked him to share a little about the Sood family story, their journey in science and business, and the founding of this award.  

Can you tell us about your family’s connection to the Department of Chemistry? 

Education and the pursuit of knowledge have always been foundational values of the Sood family and the Reena Group of Companies. At the University of Toronto, I earned a BSc. at the Department of Chemistry and a Ph.D. at the Faculty of Pharmacy. Two other members of the Reena executive team are also U of T alumni: Vice President Angelina Sood earned a BASc. in Chemical Engineering, and company controller Ms. Shelley Sood earned a BA in Sociology 

The Sood family and Reena Enterprises have a long connection with chemistry in the health industry, isn’t that right? 

The Reena Group of Companies was founded in 1983 by a husband-and-wife team--my parents, for whom the award is named. We expanded from an initial focus on frozen foods and medical products into the production of vitamins, minerals and herbal products. In time the group began offering contract analytical chemistry and microbiology testing services. In 1997, we also started providing regulatory consulting advice on natural health products and OTC pharmaceuticals. 

Today the Reena Group is headquartered in Mississauga and employs approximately 120 individuals in Canada and the United States. Manohar Sood is an active participant in the research of complementary health strategies for Canadians and published his first book in that field back in 2019. Raminder Sood passed in 2013, but her legacy and entrepreneurship lives on through her husband, children and our spouses.  

Three men standing together, two in suits, smiling at the camera.
Professor Mark Taylor, Christian Sood and Manohar Sood at the 2024 Awards Ceremony

What kind of experiences at U of T Chemistry did you take out of the classroom and lab experience and into your family business? 

I enrolled in the Specialist Chemistry program in the fall of 1987 and completed my undergraduate degree with a double specialist in Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1991. My experience at U of T as an undergraduate was initially overwhelming. I graduated from high school with a mid 90’s average and I worked throughout in the family business.  

U of T’s rigor cut my ego down to size and I did not recover until 3rd year. In hindsight I was not prepared properly so the initial years were filled with some anxiety. 


That changed in your fourth year? 

I enrolled in a fourth-year project with Professor Lautens that changed my life. During that in-lab project, we were fortunate enough to have two publications arise from that work. The work was rigorous, and Professor Lautens was an energetic and highly detailed teacher. He taught me everything I know about chemistry and really shaped me into the scientist that I became.  

Publishing as an undergraduate was thrilling and I count it amongst one of my highest achievements to this day. My systematic investigation strategies, the collaborative group discussions and the hand-on techniques were all developed and refined in the Lautens Group lab. Professor Lautens He reinforced core philosophies of hard work, scientific wonder and consistency that I appropriated from him and his lab and applied to my later life. They have become foundational philosophies for our businesses.  

Despite my age and inexperience, Professor Lautens allowed me to conduct experiments and run NMR machines and it is that type of access we grant to the student interns we admit to our programs at Reena.  

Can you tell me why your family wanted to fund a fellowship for Chemistry’s graduate students?  

My family regards education and the pursuit of knowledge highly. When I trace back through our history, science and especially the discipline of chemistry played an important role. Much of our success is owed to foundational knowledge that my father and I acquired during our university educations. That knowledge, especially our chemistry knowledge, was the basis for a lot of our early success and so it seemed fitting to encourage others in the same field.  

For many years, we as a family believed that Canada was amongst one of the best countries in the world, providing a home where we could live and thrive. At U of T the education I earned was foundational to our success. It was a natural decision to give back to Canada by supporting future minds engaged in learning a subject that our family loves and respects. 

Was this endowment something you had in mind for some time?  

Yes. Creating a fellowship had been a plan from the day I and my sister graduated in 1996. It is coincidental but even more sweet that my wife is also a U of T graduate in Chemical Engineering. 

This endowment to support graduate studies in the subject of chemistry represents an opportunity for us to truly acknowledge the role of these values in our lifelong journey. 

Shrey Desai, this year’s recipient, echoed Sood’s theme supporting the lifelong pursuit of science. “From my perspective, this is a great motivator to keep pushing forward as a scientist and to continue pursuing new ideas in Chemistry. I also believe it to be a recognition of the efforts of my supervisor, Professor Mark Taylor, and my colleagues in the Taylor group, who have been instrumental in my advancement as a researcher." 

"Receiving this fellowship is an incredible honour for me, and I am grateful to the Sood family for this recognition.”