Saturday 24th November saw a new encounter with excellence for the University of Pisa which celebrated the latest edition of the PhDay 2018, a day dedicated to the university doctoral research. The events in the programme also included the awarding of six prizes to honour the most deserving doctoral theses discussed during the last year, one prize for each area of knowledge. The papers were chosen on the basis of the originality and innovation of the results obtained, the relevance in the sector of reference and the impact on internationalisation of the research carried out.
Six new promising researchers, four ladies and two men, four from Tuscany and two from Sicily. Here are their names and the fruits of their labours: Edoardo Battaglia, PhD in Information Engineering, was awarded the prize for his thesis "Touch on the Go: Wearable Haptics for Sensing and Augmented Perception"; Rossella Bruno, PhD in Clinical Physiopathology, received the prize for her thesis "Analysis and validation of new biomarkers for the diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma"; Regina Fichera, PhD in Sciences of Antiquity and Archeology, was the best in the Arts sector with a thesis entitled "Il miracolo nelle biografie dei filosofi neoplatonici della tarda antichità (IV-VI sec. d.C.)". The other three winners are Anna Grassi, the youngest (born in 1989), for her thesis "Collisionless shocks in the context of laboratory astrophy", once again contradicting the prejudice – if there were any need - which is always difficult to overcome about the relationship between women and scientific disciplines;Patrizia Pacini Volpe, PhD in Political Science, with her paper " Anatomia della prigione. Aspetti politico-sociali della condizione carceraria in Italia e in Francia"; and Alberto Vangelisti, PhD in Sciences of Agriculture, Food and the Agricultural Environment, for the thesis "Transcriptome analysis of plants-fungus interaction: RNA-seq approach on sunflower (Helianthus annus L.) mycorrhizal roots".
The award ceremony, officiated by the rector Paolo Mancarella with the delegate to doctoral research, Marcella Aglietti, and the twenty-three doctoral programme coordinators based in the University of Pisa (there are another 10 in convention with other universities) took place during the course of the Diploma Ceremony when around 220 new PhDs were awarded for this year.
The day began with the inauguration of the doctoral programme academic year at the University of Pisa, in the presence of many of the over 700 candidates, 260 of whom from the first year alone. The Day was entitled “La ricerca cambia la vita” (Research changes your life), and the value of this experience gained along the doctoral journey was presented by four former students who, having received their degree or PhD from the University of Pisa, have continued their academic and professional journey with success and great personal gratification, both in Italy and the world in general. Thus, Alessandro Launaro, born in 1979 and a former PHD student in Ancient History, recounted how he has become one of the world’s most renowned specialists in the history of Roman Italy: he is at present Senior Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, Director of Studies in Classics at Gonville and Caius College and alongside Martin Millet is head of an archeological research project at the Roman town of Interamna Lirenas. Of equal importance is Piergiorgio Morosini who received his PhD in Private Law at Pisa. He later became the magistrate who presented the preliminary hearing in the so-called “State-Mafia Pact” case, and from 2014-2018 was a member of the Italian High Council of the Judiciary. The PhD in Information Engineering from the University of Pisa completed in 1997 was, instead, the means that allowed Riccardo Marian, after his research at CERN and the foundation of Yogitech, to achieve the title of Intel Fellow and the role of Chief Functional Safety Technologist for the whole Internet of Things group of Intel Corporation. Yet another example is the case of Dr Francesca Iezzi, who graduated in Mathematics at the University of Pisa and has been with the University of Edinburgh since 2017 where she leads the outreach activities for the School of Mathematics. Four inspiring and motivating models for the young listeners.
The programme also included various seminars and workshops on the training opportunities specifically dedicated to the PhD students, as well as research laboratories, panel sessions and information display areas set up by the PhD office and the Italian Association of PhD students and PhDs.“The University of Pisa“, said the rector Mancarella, “places great emphasis on PhDs, with a significant investment of over 5 million euros for 2019, a much higher figure than other universities of the same size. This regard for the PhD programmes has led to other important acknowledgements, such as the reform of the Statute, the highest body of academic government, where a place has been assigned to the PhD student representatives, the creation of a bursary in memory of Giulio Regeni and in the following semester, the creation of over 20 cross-ranging didactic modules in accordance with the highest formative parameters in third-level education in the field of Italian and international research”.