Reformer and robotics researcher

Nieuws | de redactie
1 mei 2013 | A world leader in humanoid robotics must save Italy’s schools and science. The former rector of the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Maria Carrozza is Italy’s new minister of Education and Science. “The Italian university needs to open up to the world, because our academic system is destined to collapse”.

The new Letta-government is remarkable for its many younger ministers from Academe and relatively more women from top positions in many walks of life than usual in Italy’s political history. It was also remarkable that this government came into being after many crises and blockades, although ScienceGuide-columnist and Italy-specialist Pieter Omtzigt (Dutch MP) immediately predicted this outcome after the elections. He reasoned that Silvio Berlusconi had little choice than this coalition in order to survive politically.

The new minister of Education and Research Policy in Rome is one of the youngest ministers ever on this post and she is specialized as a scientist and tech-wizard in “the design and manufacturing of components and systems for humanoid robotics”. She directed projects on cybernetic implants and neural interfaces for the connection of artificial hands to the brain, in other words cyborgs.

Robotics at World Expo

Carrozza’s worldwide recognized expertise is emphasized by the scientific coordination she has endeavored of more than 20 national and international research projects. Her research resulted in more than 50 scientific publications in international journals.

The new education minister is a gifted speaker at many international scientific conferences and a leading lecturer on a wide variety of high-tech topics. These include tweezers for handling of blood vessels in vivo, endoscopic robots for exploration of the colon, prosthetic hands with sensors and artificial hands for humanoid robotics.

Carrozza’s fame and expertise was therefore not solely kept inside laboratories and lecture rooms and others might know her work as well. In 2005 for example, the humanoid robotic hand designed and built by Carrozza’s research group, was exhibited in Japan at the Aichi World Expo in 2005.

A new standard for financing research

After mastering the groundbreaking field of humanoid robotics, the brilliant professor signed up for another great challenge, reforming Italy’s higher education. As the rector of the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna she is suited for her new job. She headed one of the few Italians higher education institutes, which according to the Italian media could “keep up with the challenges of globalization”. The Sant’Anna stands apart due to international focus, high level of self-financing and close collaboration with companies and start-ups.

Carrozza designed the celebrated strategy of her Scuola Superiore towards self-financing. “More than 90 percent of our funds for research and higher education come from international agencies, and only 8 percent is paid by the Ministry. This means that our researchers have the highest per capita funding in Italy”. Now Carrozza is minister of education, this might become a new standard for higher education.

Reform of teaching profession

This will not be the only reform that Italy’s higher education will face the coming years. On top of Carrozza’s agenda is the reform of the recruitment of teachers and researchers. This has to become more transparent and in order to do so Carrozza wants to “abolish many unnecessary rules”.  At the same time she wants extra investments in young researchers. “We don’t only have an aging teaching staff but we have a general aging of the system”, Carrozza said.

Carrozza believes that the resistance of the Italian academia to reform will not hold much longer. “The system is crumbling, we can’t hold on any longer with these absurd rules”. Research and education can’t even be translated into other languages that foreigners can understand.” Carrozza wants to make Italy a real European country, a country that not only has an outgoing movement of students and researchers but also an incoming.

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