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Prof. D. Alberto Molinari

Inaugural address as Doctor Honoris Causa Prof. D. Alberto Molinari

Alberto Molinari en su discurso de investidura como Doctor Honoris Causa en 2016

University Day, 29th of January, 2016.

EXCELENTÍSIMO Magnífico Rector de la Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Sres. y Señoras Vicerrectoras, Ilustrísimas autoridades académicas, Profesores, Profesoras, señoras y señores.

I am feeling a great emotion and the honour to receive this prestigious award from your University.

I am very close to Universidad Carlos III de Madrid thanks to a scientific cooperation with prof. Jose Manuel Torralba and his group, which started in the early nineties and has grown through the participation to the Höganäs Chair project. Professor Torralba conceived this project, which developed along fifteen years, representing an excellent example of fruitful cooperation between universities and industry. It involved several PhD students from Technical University of Wien, Carlos III University of Madrid, Slovak Academy of Science in Kosice and University of Trento, and I have the pleasure to remind that my Madrina prof. Monica Campos has been one of the first ones. Due to this close scientific relation, I can recognize and appreciate the qualification and the high profile of your University, and I express you my warm thanks for the prestigious award I am receiving today and for the consideration you are expressing on my academic work.

On receiving this Doctor Honoris Causa award my thought goes to my Magister, Professor Alberto Tiziani from Padua University. He not only stimulated my interest on Powder Metallurgy; he also gave me important teachings that I applied in my work and communicated to my students. The most important one in relation to scientific research was that on reading papers in literature, as well as on doing experiments and the analysis of the results, we have to practice the critical sensibility. This teaching was very important to me when I was doing my master thesis in the pre-computer era, and it is perhaps even more important today, when our work is supported by the tools and the applications of Computer Science and of Information and Communication Technology. As in the past I observed, just as an example, an uncritical approach towards the results provided by the new experimental techniques based on the sophisticated spectrocopies, I quite frequently verify the same approach today, towards the outputs of Computer Science and ICT. This may be the case of a bibliographic research on internet, but even of a complex modelling of physical and chemical phenomena as those occurring in materials. Results of these works are sometimes assumed, in particular by the students and the young colleagues, as true as such without a critical analysis of their reliability and significance. I am definitely aware of the great usefulness of these tools, but I still believe that computer cannot completely substitute a well-trained brain of a man and of a woman.

The critical sensibility can only be supported by a solid theoretical background and the aptitude for reasoning. In our countries, materials engineers are mostly employed by the manufacturing industry to work on product development, quality control and continuous improvement. In this context, the knowledge of the base principles of the behaviour of materials, of the technological processes and of designing methodologies, as well as the methods to apply them to practical cases through reasoning, is the best cultural heritage we may help our students to build-up.

Academics are teachers and researchers, and our research affects positively the quality of education, since through research we continuously improve and update the knowledge we transfer to our students.

Teaching and research are the two main activities of an academic. University has the social scope to support the social and economic development of humanity through the development and the spreading of knowledge. Research is functional to development; teaching is functional to spreading of knowledge. We are asked to find the right equilibrium and combination between these two activities. To this purpose, the procedures implemented to evaluate academics should give the same importance to the two activities. In my country, such an evaluation is based only on the scientific performances of academics, and this does not contribute to establish an equilibrated academic community. Indeed, in particular young colleagues, are forced to concentrate their work on research, with the risk that less efforts are put in teaching, that means on spreading the knowledge. This way, University will progressively disregard its role in the Society.

Our students, all our students are the motive of existence of University and, in turn, of us as professors. They are demanding, of course. On getting old I realize an ever greater difference between me, when student in the middle of the seventies, and them. However working with them is a great opportunity, since it helps us to understand the world in evolution. Moreover, they can return our efforts with their diligence and their performances; sometimes they can give us amazing emotions. A few years ago I was here as a visiting professor, to give a course in the PhD programme. Two years later I read in the acknowledgements of the PhD thesis of one of the students of that course “Alberto, your lessons opened my eyes”. I will never forget what I could do with my lessons, and I want to dedicate this award to all my students.

Thanks to my Madrina prof. Monica Campos, to prof. Jose Manuel Torralba, to the Rector and the academic authorities of the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and the Alvaro Alonso Barba Institute!