Saturday, April 01, 2017

The faculty is the university: The case of IMT Lucca

The physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi famously told President Eisenhower that "the faculty is the university." This is a quote I like to use when discussing with university administrators and I was reminded of it these days while reading opinions aired by several Italian academics on IMT Lucca, an Italian centre of advanced study and an international PhD school.

IMHO, a recent case of possible plagiarism involving an IMT graduate hasn't been handled well at all by the top management of that institution. However, to my mind, this event should not be used to debase the excellent work that our colleagues have done and are doing at that institute, which attracts to Italy and trains a good number of high-quality PhD students from abroad, and conducts cutting-edge research in its areas of interest. In fact, I do believe that schools of advanced study such as IMT can play an important role in the academic environment in Italy by attracting talent from abroad and nurturing Italian young researchers within an international research environment. IMHO, the variety those schools add to higher education in my native country is beneficial.

I would definitely encourage my (former) students to take up a PhD or a postdoctoral position within the SysMA group, to work with Rocco De Nicola, Mirco Tribastone and the young researchers in that group, five of whom are from outside Italy. I would also point people interested in control and dynamical systems to the DYSCO group, led by Alberto Bemporad.

These are just two examples from areas that are close to my own research interests. However, the quality of the faculty and of the postdocs and students at IMT is consistently high. I have had the pleasure of giving lectures on basic research skills to IMT students of a varied background, including students in cultural heritage, and thoroughly enjoyed interacting with them.

Summing up, my message to the colleagues who are currently forming an opinion on IMT Lucca based on the actions of its management is simple: "The faculty is the university." Look carefully at the (IMHO, excellent) work done by our colleagues working at that institute and form an opinion based on it, not on mediatic noise.

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