Excellence Of Politecnico In Qs World University Rankings By Subject

In an increasingly competitive global academic context, Politecnico di Milano has once again established itself as one of the world's leading academic institutions, ranking among the top universities in its core disciplines: 7th place in both Design and Architecture and 23rd place in Engineering, according to data published today by the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2024.

QS World University Rankings by Subject is the ranking of the best universities in the world by subject area, and today covers 55 disciplines divided into 5 macro areas. Rankings by subject aim to guide students to choose universities by discipline of interest.

The results released today, with a significant presence in world rankings in multiple fields of study, consolidate the University's reputation as a leader in scientific and technological education and research.

Going into the details of the ranking, the Politecnico di Milano has achieved excellent results in various disciplines, with prominent positions in key sectors in economic and scientific development, such as Engineering - Mechanical, Aeronautics and Manufacturing, ranking 9th globally in disciplines crucial for the development and innovation of technologies that drive industrial progress.

As far as Civil Engineering is concerned, the University ranks 12th in the world. Despite the growing demand from the labour market, the number of graduates, not only at the Politecnico, in this field is decreasing. A shortage that represents an extraordinary job opportunity for those who decide to embark on a path that places professionals at the centre of the country's infrastructural progress, with employment rates for Politecnico graduates reaching 97% one year after graduation.

In addition, the University stood out in 23rd place in the crucial sector of Data Science & AI, an indicator evaluated for the first time by Qs, which further confirms the work of researchers and teachers. Precisely in this area, those who choose to be protagonists of the digital transition, with the possibility of contributing to the development of new techniques, applications and ethical implications, find in the Politecnico di Milano an institution that has been committed to the study of artificial intelligence for over 50 years. In fact, the University has established itself as a major centre for the study of AI with a transversal and pervasive approach within all areas of research and innovation

What emerges from the latest QS survey is the value of 'engineerings'. The plural is a must in an increasingly articulated and multidisciplinary context. In this specific area, we rank among the top 25 in the world in Data Science & AI, in the face of close competition.

Professor Donatella Sciuto, Rector of Politecnico di Milano

Compared to last year, Politecnico di Milano has made significant progress in several disciplines, including Physics and Astronomy (+22 positions), Architecture and Built Environment (+3), Mathematics (+3), and Chemical Engineering (+7), thus demonstrating a continuous commitment to academic excellence and frontier research.

In addition, all 12 departments of the University are in the TOP50 for at least one discipline.

At a national level, the Politecnico di Milano is confirmed as the main point of reference in Architecture, Design, and Engineering.

Extraordinary Italians! Giuseppe Scionti and Novameat's cultivated meat

MAP readers might remember him: we featured him in MAP's special issue on Politecnico’s achievements. Alumnus Giuseppe Scionti, a Politecnico di Milano biomedical engineer,⠀from Spain founded the start-up NovaMeat and is deeply engaged in the discussions surrounding fake meat.  

In an interview with StartupItalia, he explains that he is not a big fan and maintains an engineer's approach. 'I must admit, I would rather eat real meat. That's precisely why I began exploring ways to improve fake meat. With Novameat, our aim is to offer a flavourful, healthier and more affordable alternative to traditional meat.'

Click this link to read his story

'The advantage of this new approach, as opposed to conventional techniques, lies in its ability to use a variety of ingredients beyond just soy and wheat. This not only promotes biodiversity but also uses sustainable ingredients from different crops (products with zero or nearly zero food miles, Ed.): 'in India we will use local ingredients, in Africa we will collaborate with FAO-supported countries.' Calculations indicate a saving of 95% soil and 75% water, therefore decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 87% compared to the production of the same amount of meat.

Find out more: https://www.yumpu.com/it/document/read/66092441/map-magazine-alumni-politecnico-di-milano-numero-speciale-best-of/72

All aboard the hydrogen train!

A train departs from Brescia, silently reflects on Lake Iseo and then passes through the houses and mountains of the Camonica Valley, leaving the landscape clean, no trail of black smoke but a watery vapour, a sign of the energy that is setting it in motion. This is the scenario which is expected to take place between the end of 2024 and the beginning of 2025, when the Coradia Stream, Italy's first hydrogen train with zero direct CO2 emissions into the environment, will replace diesel trains on the non-electrified Brescia-Iseo-Edolo railway line. The first of six trains commissioned by Trenord and Ferrovie Nord Milano to Alstom, it will have a range of 600 kilometres and will accommodate 260 seats; it will be part of the 'H2iseO' project, Italy's first hydrogen valley, which will contribute to the carbon neutrality target set for 2050 by the European Union, ie a 100% reduction in CO2 emissions, as much as it produces. Putting this hydrogen train and the innovation it brings into motion is Alumna Susanna Boitano, who was the Train Control Engineer, the person responsible for the software development of the vehicle's Train Control Management System (TCMS). ‘It is the brain of the convoy,’ she says, ‘which communicates with all the software of the on-board subsystems’.

Tell us more about how this brain works.

The energy is produced by the fuel cells on the train roof and stored into high-voltage lithium batteries. The tanks containing the hydrogen are distributed in the Power car, the one housing this energy heart. Industrial piping systems communicate with fuel cells where the chemical transformation of the combination of hydrogen, oxygen and waste water takes place. The energy is then stored in high-voltage batteries, communicating with the traction motors and auxiliary units that take the energy and distribute it to the rest of the train. Where possible, hydrogen fuel consumption is limited as much as possible thanks to the control of the Energy Management system. The batteries are charged both by the hydrogen production of the fuel cells and by the driver's electrodynamic braking, which means that no energy is wasted when braking. Part of the software I dealt with checks whether the high-voltage batteries should be recharged through hydrogen conversion by fuel cells or through braking energy recovery,

So the train is totally green, right?

Yes, because hydrogen in contact with oxygen in the air generates energy via fuel cells and releases water. Hydrogen is stored in facilities paid for by the customer, in this case Trenord and Ferrovie Nord Milano, which have declared that they will be supplied from renewable sources in order to maintain the circle of environmental sustainability. The feasibility plan is currently being finalised and envisages the initial use of Steam Methane Reforming (SMR) technology, from methane or biomethane, with capture and storage of the generated CO2, for the production of 'blue hydrogen'. Our goal is to deliver the first train between the end of 2024 and the beginning of 2025.

What was it like to come on board for the first time?

First, I would like to point out that the tests are still ongoing. This being said, the design has taken many years of work - and I mean not only from the aesthetics, but also from the mechanical and software points of view - but the real satisfaction comes when the train is complete, as a whole, and you turn the key and switch it on for the first time. The first turn of the key is the moment when you say to yourself: ‘this is what all these years have led to’.

What have they lead to exactly?

To the first hydrogen train in Italy. Well, as a matter of fact, also at European level, because currently the only other hydrogen train is the iLint, also produced by Alstom, for Germany, but designed for a limited commercial service and based on different network technologies. This one, on the other hand, is the first hydrogen-powered Smart Coradia model, which is part of the same group of regional trains that is replacing the entire fleet of Italian regional monoplane trains. Working for it was a privilege, because I felt like I was making a contribution to my country.

Marco Piuri, CEO of Trenord and Managing Director of FNM, said: ‘Inaugurating the use of this technology in an area that connects, by vocation, means that its value will not only be realised in the individual project, but will spread to other areas. I am thinking of industries and services that can be reached by the hydrogen network. This is what we aim to achieve with H2iseO: we want it to be scalable, beyond rail and bus mobility'. What is the future of hydrogen?

In an increasingly environmentally conscious world, I think it is crucial to look for alternative ways of producing energy. A diesel-powered train emits CO2, approximately 0.044 kg CO2 per km. In Italy, 40% of routes are not electrified and electrification is sometimes much more expensive than buying a diesel train. Moreover, the landscape is often difficult due to mountains, forests or, as in the case of Brescia-Iseo-Edolo, the tracks passing between houses in tunnels of limited size. Hydrogen could also be an intelligent application in metallurgical industries that currently have huge energy consumption.

On which tracks will the hydrogen train then lead us?

It will surely lead us to a future where we will be more aware and attentive to even the smallest things. Sometimes it takes a big message and a big change to let the individual become aware. The strong impetus towards collective innovation can have an impact on the choices we all make, every day, individually.

Will you board the hydrogen train for one of your first trips?

Of course! I will organise a trip with my family to show them what I have actually been working on all this time.

The best espresso there’s ever bean

A small light emerges from the nose of an espresso machine and illuminates the cup that fills to the sound of freshly ground beans. From the side, the glow is reflected in the curves drawn in the machine's aluminium. ‘This is how coffee stages its very show,’ says a voice. We are in Smeg's Milan store and the voice is that of Alumnus Matteo Bazzicalupo. He and Alumna Raffaella Mangiarotti, who is also here with us, designed this fully automatic espresso machine, the BCC Smeg, winner of the fourth edition of the DesignEuropa Award organised by the European Union Intellectual Property Office, in the Industry category. Their studio is called ‘deepdesign’ because - and we quote their words - ‘we work with research while questioning forms, in order to achieve a deep design’. So we decided to have a conversation precisely moving from the depths of thought that then lead to the creation of new lines.

'For twenty-five years we have been thinking about products not only from an aesthetic and functional point of view but also from a symbolic one,' explains Bazzicalupo. ‘The power of symbols goes beyond logical properties and reaches the heart and soul, allowing us to create an instantaneous and empathic relationship with those who interact with the product. The first image that came to our mind when thinking of this coffee machine was that of a monolithic geode. If you look at it, it has a very pure volume that resembles the device of a geode: it splits and holds a precious heart inside. Similarly, we have carved out a portion of the primary volume and a very valuable interior is unveiled: the underlying advanced technology platform that addresses the user. This metaphor tells a lot about the way we work and our reliance on a multi-factor methodology; on top of that, it also tells about the interaction that can be generated from the very beginning and that can then last over time'.

In a video presenting the espresso machine, Raffaela Mangiarotti wonders how to overcome the initial misunderstanding, that destructive stalemate in the relationship between machine and user. She wonders how to make objects talk. So we ask how objects can succeed in speaking to us. 'Form always expresses an iconic potential,' she says, 'and every object belongs to its own typological tradition that can be consecrated or desecrated. We feel free to choose how to act according to the business context we work in: sometimes we have consecrated and sometimes we have destroyed typologies because we considered that there might be different, more contemporary ways of seeing things. For example, we designed a washing machine and opted for centripetal instead of centrifugal force. We gave it a softer shape, its noise becomes a sound - more precisely the sound of water - and movements become fluid inside a machine that is no longer a white cube but is transparent. This is how functional things become emotional. In other cases, the typology itself is already perfect, as we realise it has come to us through so many hands and minds that have made it almost untouchable. In the case of this coffee machine, we have opted for very simple interfaces: we do not like to make it difficult for those who approach it. Of course, machines are getting smarter and smarter... but perhaps they don't need to show it, they should rather facilitate our decisions and ability to understand them. We thought of someone who wakes up in the morning, arrives in the kitchen almost with eyes still closed and simply wants to press a button to get a coffee. Among the four buttons, that person chooses one, smells the scent of coffee wafting through the air... we imagine that person almost always with their eyes closed: a real soft and powerful awakening at the same time. Then, if that person is an expert, if their eyes are already open, they discover that there is a mode whereby those four buttons control four other function options; or they can open the small machine door, turn a lever and choose the type of grind depending on the humidity of the day. It is a ‘level machine’, meaning that it is designed for various levels: from the simplest and most immediate to the deepest and most technical’.

So, going back to the moment of genesis, right after the lighting of the monolith, how did you proceed? Bazzicalupo replies: ‘Let's say that at the beginning of the job we were given the inside of the machine and we had to shape its skin. We therefore focused on its compactness as the most important thing: we had to imagine something not too oversized, something which could be placed under the kitchen wall unit. That’s when we realised that we could design a long, narrow shape. Working on the front became interesting at this point: we thought of a clean line, of a front with a very distinctive cut, as if it were the cut of a stone. The starting palette is composed of three colours but is expanding. At the moment the machine comes in white, black and taupe - the latter is a shade of colour reminiscent of café au lait. The front panel is made of natural aluminium and has a brushed finish with a polished edge, a stroke of light that outlines and emphasises the area of the cut’.

Mangiarotti adds: ‘We often study sound as well, as we want to try to turn noises into sounds. In this case, the sound of the coffee grinder conveys the idea that fresh coffee is being prepared. The noise of a grinder is probably not very romantic, but when you open the top door and the aroma is released, you fly with imagination to a coffee roastery. Sometimes, I fill the machine up and leave it open: it is as if the smell wakes me up too. In short, it is a coffee machine but also an olfactory machine'.

Mangiarotti adds: ‘We often study sound as well, as we want to try to turn noises into sounds. In this case, the sound of the coffee grinder conveys the idea that fresh coffee is being prepared. The noise of a grinder is probably not very romantic, but when you open the top door and the aroma is released, you fly with imagination to a coffee roastery. Sometimes, I fill the machine up and leave it open: it is as if the smell wakes me up too. In short, it is a coffee machine but also an olfactory machine'. How can a line drawn on a certain day, in a certain year, rise to eternal life? Mangiarotti thinks about it and responds: ‘Personally, I don't like formal solutions that are too extreme because I find that when you create a very strange object, you end up getting tired of it over time. I believe a line must embody calmness to be eternal. This way, it can be translated into the desire to create an object that, when you look at it, is both new and ever-present. Bazzicalupo adds: 'Yes, like an object that you feel you have introjected'. Mangiarotti then continues: ‘To design this coffee machine we took some time to think about what a line with this calmness could be. When you think of Smeg, you think of something that stands the test of time. Here we are surrounded by Guido Canali's 1960s designs, and if you work with a company that has objects that were beautiful and have remained beautiful, you feel a responsibility. We wanted to do something graceful, more playful, that spoke to young people but shared the same essential nature. We wanted an object that could recall memory while being immersed in the contemporary'.

Moving on to memories, Mangiarotti tells us what has remained of her time studying at Politecnico: ‘The scientific method. The first thing Marco Zanuso, my lecturer at Poli, taught me was the etymology of 'progettare’, the Italian verb meaning ‘to design': it comes from the Latin ‘proiectāre’, namely to throw forward. This shaped me. When we designed the centripetal force washing machine, the self-standing hair-dryer or the foldable electric broom, we made attempts to throw something forward, not to the side. In the case of another coffee machine, the Diamantina, we did archive research on the historic Diamante machine. Doing research is a form of respect: it assumes humility, it means going and learning about the intellect that came before you. Finally, you can also pay homage while also putting something of your own. Such scientific dimension to the project is the one I also see in the young people attending Politecnico today'. Bazzicalupo has one particular memory from his Politecnico days: ‘I remember the teaching we learnt from Francesco Trabucco on the day we had to decide on our thesis topic. A NASA engineer was present and suggested an ultralight gyrocopter - the ancestor of the helicopter. We were all excited... but we didn't even know what it was. I thus learnt that, in order to aspire to innovate and imagine the future, one must first of all accept without fear every new design challenge’.

After leaving Politecnico, how does a person start and how can one find themselves in a colleague? Mangiarotti and Bazzicalupo met in 1995 in the editorial office of the magazine ‘Modo’ founded by Alessandro Mendini, where they both wrote about innovation and technology, and so they decided to enter a competition together for the first time. Returning to the DesignEuropa Award, they tell us about the value of this first place: ‘Awards are usually related to the product’s aesthetics and functionality. In addition to these two aspects, which are the main ones, DesignEuropa considers a third parameter: the product’s commercial success. Not only the design but also the way the product was placed in a certain market segment - perhaps figuring out which element to remove or add to maintain a certain type of price - is part of the design. It’s thus about economic sustainability, because success corresponds to the revenue that pays back the professionalism and people behind the product itself. In our case, it’s also about environmental sustainability because this machine does not use capsules or pods and thus produces no waste: it goes from the bean directly to the cup'. They quote Good Design by Bruno Munari, in which the artist and designer plays with writing by describing an orange and peas as if they were design objects. ‘The ambition is always to follow a natural process,’ they say, ‘because there is no waste in nature. A leaf shows its lymphatic system, and you realise that it has nothing more than it needs... but you see it and it is wonderful. The result is an essential geometry that is turned into aesthetics. If we look around in this Smeg universe we are immersed in, we realise that there are another twenty iconic products designed by Mangiarotti and Bazzicalupo in addition to their automatic espresso machine. The two also designed this showroom and the one in London. We ask them how it feels to be here. ‘It feels a bit like home’.

More space and rooms for the environment: the renewed research laboratories at Politecnico

Earth, water, mountains, roads and tracks, the forces that nature stirs and those that man brings into play, seem to take shape as you walk through the 4000m2 of the Leonardo Campus, where the research laboratories of DICA (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering) of Politecnico di Milano have been relocated after having been upgraded. They are one next door the other: the Environmental Engineering Laboratory, the Laboratory for Diagnostics and Investigation on Building Materials, the interdepartmental Solid-liquid Interface Nanomicroscopy and Spectroscopy Lab and the Petrographic Collection.

"We needed to gather into a single environment", says Alumnus and professor Attilio Frangi, Head of the Department, "here all skills and expertise coexist that allow us to be one of the key players in the sustainability and renewal of the Italian infrastructure system, be it air, transport or hydraulic infrastructure”. What are the fragilities of the natural and built environment, and what interventions do these laboratory concretely bring into play? "In many situations", Frangi replies, "due to the nature of the materials used and the limitations of the construction methods adopted, transport, energy and water infrastructures are in the final phase of their useful life. They were born fifty to one hundred years ago and need to be relaunched to be able to live another fifty or one hundred years. This means they need true regeneration. Inevitably, we have to modernise or even replace them while we use them, as they are so crucial to our life that we cannot interrupt their operations without affecting the stability of the human settlements that now depend on them. Adding to this demanding challenge for civil and environmental engineers is another challenge: we have to regenerate infrastructure assets while keeping in mind that the building construction world is responsible for about 40 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Infrastructures must not only fulfil a task but also be sustainable, and therefore they must be integrated with the needs of the community and the territory”.

Visiting the laboratories one has the feeling that in these rooms, people are working on the present and future of Italy, are studying and testing scenarios. "There was a time when people funded the construction of an infrastructure without considering what might happen at the end of its life”, Frangi explains, "which is why today our territory is dotted with eco-monsters. Until recently, there were people who designed infrastructures and people who protested against them, and at first glance our Department seems to have two different souls: that of designers who develop the structures and an environmental soul, and they may seem to be opposed to each other. Today, the approach has also changed because of all the tragedies we have experienced in our infrastructure, and since the beginning these two souls have worked together to make the infrastructure, which is necessary and indispensable, compatible with the natural environment in which we live”. “May you give a concrete example of these synergies?” "Today, a civil engineer cannot but also be an environmental engineer, or rather, a civil engineering team cannot but include both civil and environmental engineers working together for the sustainability of the infrastructure based on a life cycle thinking rationale. When you design infrastructure, you must have all phases in mind from the outset: construction, service, refitting, decommissioning. Closely related to this is the issue of life cycle assessment, which is a methodology for assessing the environmental footprint of an intervention throughout its entire life cycle: from the extraction of the raw materials making up the product to product manufacturing, distribution, use and final disposal, including it possible recycling. In one of our numerous ongoing projects, some of our research groups are proposing the reuse of incinerator sludge, which after an inertization and crushing process can be reused to replace aggregates and cement in concrete, thus reducing the consumption of natural resources and cement.

. And this not only for civil infrastructure but also for resource distribution networks and the natural environment. Examples include the reuse of irrigation water and the recovery of nutrients from wastewater. Such work involves environmental expertise, expertise related to the geo-mechanical characterisation of the inertized material, and expertise in the mechanics of materials and structures for assessing the feasibility of their reuse as construction material.

We ask Alumnus Frangi to outline the physical and ideal aspects that are common to all people work-ing in the different laboratories. "They have in common the fact that they are all polytechnical: engi-neers are multifaceted, and in these laboratories a very strong multidisciplinarity emerges which is es-sential to tackle equally multidisciplinary issues and problems”.

Learn more about the features of each lab as told by those who work there every day in MAP 13, the magazine of Politecnico di Milano alumni, at these links::

The EU has provided almost €8 million for the numerical simulation of complex phenomena

Professor Paola Antonietti, the principal investigator in the team awarded the Synergy Grant of the ERC — ERC – European Research Council, leads the Laboratory for Modelling and Scientific Computation (MOX) at the Department of Mathematics at Politecnico di Milano. This grant provides a funding of €7.8 million for a period of six years.

Numbers fascinated Antonietti from a very early age, so much so that she cannot remember exactly when she began to take an interest in them. “My fascination developed very organically. As a child, I showed an interest in logic and construction games like Lego and Meccano, which I used to take apart and put back together. As a young girl, I continued to do the same thing with the computer: I remember whole afternoons spent on the Commodore 64, trying to learn its secrets. That's how, little by little, I got into what I still love today: solving problems, finding patterns, categorising, abstracting”. sThe 43-year-old from Milan could not have imagined that this passion would not only lead to her graduate in Mathematics with a distinction, but also secure her a scholarship for a PhD in Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Pavia, then to become a researcher at the School of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Nottingham and, finally, to embark on a career at Politecnico di Milano. After years of research and teaching, she has been Full Professor of Numerical Analysis at Politecnico di Milano since 2019 and Head of the Laboratory for Modeling and Scientific Computing (MOX) at the Department of Mathematics since 2023. “And to think that after secondary school I wanted to study medicine! But my family and my maths and physics teacher pushed me to pursue my talent in mathematics. Aside from the subject, the most important factor for me was my love for studying itself, so I made sure to study all my life. I never lose heart: if something doesn't work out for me, I don't give up; the more complicated an issue is, the more I feel motivated to work hard to find a solution. And this, in a competitive field such as academia, has made all the difference”.

Oggi i risultati si vedono, e non sono solo tappe di crescita professionale individuale elencate in un curriculum. Con Nemesis (acronimo di NEw GEneration MEthods for Numerical SImulationS), progetto di ricerca internazionale che la vede al fianco di Lourenço Beirão da Veiga (Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca), Daniele Di Pietro (Université de Montpellier) e Jérôme Droniou Jérôme Droniou (direttore di ricerca del CNRS – Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), Antonietti è impegnata nello sviluppo di metodi numerici di nuova generazione, metodi creati a partire da basi teoriche e messi in pratica attraverso l’uso di supercomputer, allo scopo di risolvere le sfide globali e tecnologiche del XXI secolo, principalmente nel campo della sostenibilità. Di recente il team ha ottenuto un riconoscimento importante: il gruppo di lavoro si è aggiudicato uno dei 37 Synergy Grant dell’ERC.

“The Nemesis project is a large European project funded to improve numerical simulation techniques for complex phenomena," she explains. "When we want to model physical phenomena, such as those in engineering or science, we use mathematical equations. However, these equations are often too complex to solve directly, and this is where numerical methods step in to approximate the solutions using computers. Therefore, our ambition is to develop better, more precise and efficient methods than the ones that already exist, in order to work out approximations of complex phenomena and implement them on computers with extremely high computing power. To this end, we resort to more flexible calculation grids, called “polytopals”, which differ from the standard elements, i.e. those common and regular geometric shapes — cubes, prisms, tetrahedrons, hexahedrons, etc — commonly used to simplify the representation of a calculation domain. They are different in that they can freely adapt to the edges or geometries of the real phenomena being simulated”. Obviously, this may sound abstruse to anyone who is not a mathematician, but in fact it is the same as if you were to represent a landscape: according to traditional methods, you could use small squares or triangles to depict the ground, the sky, the trees, but if the landscape is particularly irregular or has peculiarities, those rigid geometric figures may be limiting and, for a more accurate representation, it would be better to resort to pieces of flexible cardboard modelled ad hoc”.

“We are currently experiencing a period of significant changes, which are happening right before our eyes at an unprecedented speed,” Antonietti observes. “In this context, the universal language of mathematics, i.e. the ability to describe quantitative phenomena through equations, is fundamental. This is because the same mathematical equations can be used to study either how blood circulates in the brain or how a pollutant spreads in water; it is only the values of the physical and geometrical parameters that change, and this allows us to perform virtual simulations to obtain detailed and quantitative answers to problems of various kinds. For example, we might want to assess the effects of a potential earthquake, predict the risk of heart problems after an arrhythmia, optimise the shape and resistance of tyres, and personalise radiotherapy treatments for patients with cancer”.

È quanto fanno i ricercatori di MOX, le cui simulazioni virtuali e analisi dei dati fungono da «laboratori digitali che permettono di esplorare e quantificare una vasta gamma di fenomeni», per dirla con Antonietti, ispirata in questo dal professore di fama mondiale Alfio Quarteroni, il matematico padre fondatore del MOX, alla guida dello stesso dal 2002 al 2022. «Gli devo molto, è grazie alla sua innovativa visione che ho assimilato un modo di fare matematica al servizio delle sfide concrete e realizzato quanto conti, in tutto ciò, confrontarsi costantemente con i colleghi di altre discipline, dagli ingegneri ai designer, dagli architetti agli scienziati applicati. All’inizio non è stato tutto rose e fiori, avevo alle spalle un percorso diverso, per cui i primi anni al Politecnico non sono stati facili. Ma all’Università di Pavia avevo avuto maestri eccezionali: penso alle mie direttrici di tesi di dottorato, le professoresse Annalisa Buffa, ora all’École Polytechnique Fédérale di Losanna (EPFL), e Ilaria Perugia, attualmente all’Università di Vienna, così come a Franco Brezzi e a Donatella Marini. Questo mi ha aiutata e oggi sono fiera di essere parte di una realtà così prestigiosa: secondo l’ultimo QS World University Rankings, il Dipartimento di Matematica del Politecnico di Milano si classifica primo in Italia, 11esimo in Europa e 34esimo nel mondo, tra i competitor nella stessa materia».

In the meantime, the MOX has also grown: in the year of its foundation it had about ten researchers, today we have about a hundred. The focus is on problem-driven research of a trans- and inter-disciplinary nature, aimed at application in the most diverse fields, from neuroscience to ecology, from manufacturing processes to sustainable mobility and digitalisation. “In the same vein, Nemesis aspires to develop a new generation of numerical methods by overcoming current obstacles, including by perfecting predictive capabilities with artificial intelligence techniques. At the heart of this research are the aforementioned polytopic methods, which, by supporting computational grids made up of elements of any shape and thus abandoning the classical approach, enable both an exceptional approximation capacity of the data and the domain or field of application, as well as the direct integration of specific physical laws in the numerical domain — integration that enables the actual structure of the physical problem under investigation to be reflected — and maximise computational processing”.

The main goal is to develop a rigorous mathematical framework and efficient algorithms to enable and facilitate this new way of doing simulations that will ultimately determine policy strategies across various sectors. “In particular, as the Nemesis team, we will mitigate the effects of anthropogenic activities in the subsurface, for example by building virtual simulations to predict the effects of CO2 storage activities or geothermal energy production. And predict the equations of magnetohydrodynamics or MHD, i.e. the mathematical instructions that tell us how electrically conducting liquids behave in the presence of a magnetic field, used to study the complex mechanisms of nuclear fusion, space meteorology and much more. The MHD equations play a key role in computer modelling of aluminium production processes, which are energy-intensive and therefore need to be optimised with respect to the environment”.

At the time of her graduation there was still little talk of the gender gap in STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), a topic that is now at the centre of public debate and has long been a priority for Politecnico, where women make up less than 30% of the 47,000 students and 1,400 researchers. “There is still a long way to go, but things are changing," Antonietti comments. “Real-life actions have been introduced in this sense: orientation activities aimed at female high school students towards STEM subjects, scholarships for female students who choose to enrol in engineering courses with a lower presence of women, nurseries and summer camps for the university community, among many others. As a mother of two daughters aged 6 and 11, I can testify that these measures can make a difference: actions speak louder than words and I believe it is essential to show girls and young women with real-life examples that 'it can be done'. This is also true for me in my private life: in my family there is no separation of roles”. Regarding her professional career, Antonietti states that she has “never felt the burden of being a woman, not even in situations where she was the only woman at the table — something that has frequently happened and still happens for many women”. But she emphasises that “over the years, she has experienced the impact of horizontal segregation — women in STEM subjects are under-represented — and vertical segregation, linked to gender inequality in senior roles”. She continues: “A cultural change is needed. In this respect, the European Commission, through the inclusion of the issue of gender in all development policies, makes a real impact: the signs of progress are beginning to be seen a little everywhere, and it is no coincidence that Politecnico is now led, for the first time since its foundation, by a female dean”.

From any perspective, winning an ERC Synergy Grant is an achievement to be celebrated: this year, out of 395 projects that took part in the call, only 37 (five of which were participated in by Italian scientists) were awarded funding. 135 researchers were called upon to execute them at 114 universities and research centres in 19 European countries and elsewhere. “ERC's line of research funding is undoubtedly the most prestigious in Europe,” says Antonietti. “I am proud of this milestone achieved with Nemesis, not least because proposals in every field of science are evaluated, without predefined topics and assessed on the sole criterion of scientific excellence”. And casting her mind back to when, as a child, she enjoyed assembling Lego bricks, she adds: 'I am not obsessed with mathematics, I also like reading, in fact, I burn through books. And there is one book that means a lot to me, “Cuore” by Edmondo De Amicis. It was given to me at primary school by my teacher, as a reward for being a good reader, and it has been with me during the most important moments of my life: when I left home, when I got married, when I passed it on to my daughters. Because it is a tribute to education, to respect, to kindness, to gratitude, to courage, to sacrifice, and it is from education and culture that the indispensable values of protecting and defending everyone’s rights arise”.

Achievements: who are the Alumni and Alumnae to watch out for in 2024?

We start with the new Managing Director of 3M and the 12 Politecnico’s Alumni and Alumnae in AD’s list of the 100 best designers  

We open 2024 with 12 architects and designers, 12 talents from the world of design. They are on AD - ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST Italia's list of the 100 best architects and designers from around the world. Watch out for them in the coming months: some are superstars while others might sound new to non-insiders.

Among them are: ACPV, an architecture firm founded by Alumni Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel which is known for its unconventional aesthetics and taking on challenges in a wide variety of fields (the firm has just set up two new specialised units: ACPVIDEO for video production and ACPVX for digital design consultancy); Droulers Architecture, a Milan-based firm founded by Alumna Nathalie Droulers (graduated in architecture in 1996) and her sister (who studied at the New York School of Design); Hannes Peer, an architect from Bolzano who graduated from Politecnico di Milano in 2002; Mario Bellini, founder of the design and architecture firm of the same name, who graduated in architecture in 1959 from Politecnico di Milano (where he had Ernesto Nathan Rogers, Gio Ponti, and Piero Portaluppi as professors) and has received uncountable recognitions. To refresh your knowledge of ‘Made in Polimi history’, see the story of the legendary 'Perottina': Olivetti Programma 101, the first Personal Computer in history, which we have told you about here. Then there is, of course, Patricia Urquiola, Architecture 1989 Alumnae, who has taken the deep empathic connection she puts into her designs from her master Achille Castiglioni. Piero Lissoni, another great Alumnus of Politecnico, graduated in Architecture in 1985: his name recurs several times each year in the pantheon of design. Alumnus and senator Renzo Piano, who graduated from Politecnico di Milano in 1964 and has been a key figure in the international architecture of the last forty years. Storage Milano, an architecture and design firm founded in Milan in 2002 by Alumni architects Barbara Ghidoni, Marco Donati and Michele Pasini. And finally, there is 2050+, an interdisciplinary Milan-based agency founded by Alumnus (Architecture 2005) Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli


Here’s a piece of news from 2023 that we didn't get around to telling you about: chemical engineer Laura Galli is the new Managing Director of 3M Italia, a position she will be taking on alongside her current role as Vice President EMEA for the Personal Safety division, which she has held in the company since 2022. Galli has a wealth of experience in the company and this has led her to take on increasingly important roles, both national and international, in the various sectors in which 3M operates, from industrial to health and consumer markets. In 2021 we interviewed her for the book Alumnae: Ingegnere e Tecnologie (Alumnae: Woman Engineers and Technologies): she told us about her path, which started from Politecnico di Milano, and how he decided to be an engineer.

La spettroscopia utraveloce è un capitolo della scienza che si scrive a Milano

Politecnico is at the top of the world rankings of universities also thanks to the frontier scientific research it carries out in its laboratories. The protagonists of this Italian record are the approximately 3,500 scientists and researchers of Politecnico. Among the hottest topics are obviously those related to the systemic transformation towards climate neutrality; and then, the world of digital, space exploration, life sciences, the movements embraced by the New European Bauhaus, the new frontiers in the study of matter... In particular, young researchers inject new life into the research system and grow innovative scientific strands. Politecnico invests in activities aimed precisely at encouraging young scientists of excellence to join in. Among many, this year we welcome twelve new young researchers who are among the best of their generation. They are here at Politecnico di Milano thanks to the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) fellowship programme. Let us introduce them... in alphabetical order.

CHIARA TROVATELLO has chosen to bring her project to the Poli because extremely competitive research in the field of non-linear optics and ultrafast spectroscopy are flagships for Politecnico di Milano. Her project applies them to the study of two-dimensional materials (such as graphene, transition metal dichalcogenides and van der Waals heterostructures): it combines materials science, non-linear optics and quantum optics to unveil nanoscale integrated light sources, with possible impact on the future of secure quantum communications, creating new protocols and advanced technologies for ever faster and more energy saving communications.

Read more: all Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) researchers in 2023 on MAP 12

Alumnus Simone Carniglia in the Guinness book of records

Around 132,000 people in the world have finished the world's six most important marathons: only a few dozen of them are diabetics, and of these few dozen only two have type 1 diabetes, the most serious because it's autoimmune and there's currently no cure; “but it's only a little while away,” said the man we're talking about with confidence. The man in question is Simone Carniglia, a graduate of Politecnico di Milano, a mechanical engineer who graduated in 2011 and now works for Saipem, a company operating in the energy, oil and renewable energy sectors.

Simone's story is an inspiring one: "Many mothers thanked me after meeting me, because I showed them that their diabetic children could also do sports” Do sport, and not just that: Do endurance sports, which many people think is out of the question for diabetics: "The message I want to give is that we diabetics can do endurance sports, but we must pay attention to a number of parameters during exercise: for example, our diet:, which must be more substantial than that of others, with more carbohydrates, and our hydration. We have to drink a lot.”

Carniglia got into marathons by chance: “I have always played team sports, mainly basketball and handball, but in 2017, at the age of 30, I had too many ankle sprains and had to stop. I gained weight, which is one of the side effects of our illness, I weighed over 125 kilos. Then some friends suggested I do a 10 km race, the Milano DJ ten. I had never raced before, but I took part and finished it.

From there he discovered a talent: "I started running marathons and discovered I was fast.

In fact, Simone is more than fast: he has set some important records, so much so that he ended up in the Guinness Book of Records for being the first type 1 diabetic to have finished the six longest marathons in the shortest possible time: just over 16 hours (the previous record was 21 hours).

The six marathons are: London, Boston, Chicago, Tokyo, Berlin and New York: "And unlike what the Italians think, the most prestigious is Boston, not NY".

Again: “I have a personal best of 2 hours 38 minutes and 21 seconds (which means running one km well under 4 minutes!) but my goal is to get below two hours 35 at least once. I think I can do it, I came close twice.

But why does Simone run? Certainly because he likes it but also to help research: “Yes. We are in the final stretch to find a cure for type 1 diabetes. Insulin is a treatment but not a cure. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, but scientists have succeeded in finding methods to make the cells destroyed by our immune system invisible to the immune system itself and thus allow new cells obtained from stem cells to be transplanted safely, enabling them to produce insulin like a healthy pancreas would. I know that the human trial has been going on for 2-3 years and those who have had the treatment have stopped using insulin.

In short, we are very close: "It could be 10 years or just two or three. What I do know is that I will see the cure and be able to use it, so that children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes can rest assured that they will be cured. I like to support research and that's why you can donate here to help JDRF, the leading global organisation in the search for a cure for type 1 diabetes, which funds the best research in the world, including Italy”.

Again on himself: "Running a marathon is already challenging for the average amateur runner, but for a diabetic it is even more so. During a marathon, a diabetic has additional factors to take into account: he or she must continuously monitor blood sugar levels to make sure he or she does not faint or, on the contrary, go into ketoacidosis or even worse, a coma. Diabetics are more prone to dehydration and cramping during physical activity, especially if glucose levels are not perfect. This happens because with T1D the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone essential for turning food into energy”.

The daily life of a person with T1D involves many challenges such as the many daily insulin injections that have to be balanced with diet and physical activity.

“I qualify for competitions with my results, I am not accepted for charity or because I am ill. I finished as the third Italian overall in Boston, Chicago and Tokyo, fourth overall in Reikiavik and sixth overall in Helsinki, other international marathons that are not part of the majors”.

Find this and many other articles in MAP, the magazine of Politecnico di Milano Alumni, coming out very soon! Want to support the project and receive the Magazine at home in hard copy? Donate here!

Anthea Comellini, polytechnic astronaut

"One day I got a call from a French number, I answered and heard a male voice speaking to me in English with a Germanic accent. I believe there is only one person speaking like that in Europe: Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director General”. That day, his voice informed Politecnico’s Alumna Anthea Comellini that she had just been chosen by ESA out of 23,000 applicants to join the Austronaut Reserve, made up of 17 astronauts among whom she is the only Italian woman. We call her at the French headquarters of Thales Alenia Space, where she works as an engineer in the R&D department, and she tells us about her journey.

Where does the journey to the Moon begin?

I started raising my head to the sky as a child. I was fascinated by the technology that humankind was able to deploy in order to venture into this kind of exploration, and also by the complexity involved: how many people were needed, how much technological development and how much preparation was required. One of the first science fiction films I remember was Armageddon, certainly not a particularly scientifically accurate work, but I was immediately struck by the image of the shuttle on the launch pad. Since I was a Star Wars fan, I thought it was science fiction. It was after a few days, talking to my parents, that I discovered that the shuttle really existed and that it really did leave from that launch pad. I told myself then that some Star Wars stuff could be done. In the same way, I was fascinated by the pioneers of aviation, because we were not born to fly but all these years of scientific and technological advances have enabled us to do so and help us pursue studies that are not an end in themselves but have real impacts on humankind. This gave me a lot of strength and fuelled my passion.

After discovering the technological truth behind science fiction, how did you proceed?

The first sliding door in my life was towards the end of secondary school, when I asked myself the question: a career in humanities or in science? I chose the second option. There was a time when I even considered joining the Air Force Academy in Pozzuoli but I realised that I would have preferred to study aircraft instead of flying them. I felt that mine was a craving for technological knowledge. So I chose the three-year degree in Aerospace Engineering. That which Politecnico did for me has been crucial for me to get where I am and become who I am now. The way I studied and assimilated things allowed me to develop a global vision. Having spent so many hours on books to assimilate concepts in the most diverse disciplines has made me aware that I may not remember a formula by heart but I know where to look for it and how to apply it. This, in a multidisciplinary field like space, is a fundamental value. Astronauts are often described as 'generalists', i.e., people who get away with everything, and that is a perfect description of me.

How long did the selection last and what did it consist of?

There were six steps in one and a half years. The first step was to send your CV together with a motivation letter and filling in a questionnaire. From there, we went from being 23,000 to 1,400 applicants. The second step was a day of psychometric tests very similar to those of airline companies for the selection of aspiring pilots: tests of perceptual speed, visual and auditory long-term and short-term memory, hand-eye coordination, multitasking and endurance of attention, and finally tests of mathematics and technique. After this second steps there were 400 candidates left. We were then invited to Cologne, to the Astronaut Training Centre, for a psychological assessment day. We did exercises in pairs, to evaluate communication skills under stress, and group exercises to see how we interacted with the other candidates. On the same day, we had an interview with a psychologist and a panel with a jury consisting of psychologists, HR department members and former astronauts. In my case, I met Luca Parmitano. Following this step, there were a hundred of us left and we underwent a week of medical and physical tests. Fifty of us were given access to the last two stages: an initial interview with a board consisting of senior members from the HR department, astronauts and also people from the communications department, because at that point the ability to publicise space issues also came into play. Twenty-six of us had a last interview with the ESA director. I was quite relaxed that day because I knew I had come as far as I could go and had nothing to complain about. I had emphasised that for me becoming an astronaut had not been an obsession, because I had made my way by trying to become a good engineer first and foremost, and the rest were convergences that led me to apply. They asked me if I thought this meant I was less motivated than someone who had directed ten years of their life towards this goal. My response was that mine was a less selfish approach, as rather than being obsessed about achieving something, I was interested in the usefulness of that which we can do as a space community.

You have therefore been appointed as a reserve astronaut, what does a reserve astronaut do?

The reserve is primarily intended to ensure continuity in the event of a generation change. Then, since we are in the historical moment of the advent of commercial operators, missions are no longer only paid for by institutions, and this opens up space tourism for those who can afford it but also gives smaller European countries easier access to missions with astronauts of their own nationality. In the meantime I continue my work as an engineer, especially on rendezvous. That is, I am in charge of enabling satellites to make autonomous trajectories without the need for ground support. This has several applications: autonomous rendezvous are used, for instance, to recover space debris and return it to the atmosphere or to perform life extinguishing, refuelling and repair services. I feel I am contributing in a way that is good, we are trying to maximise the resources already in orbit, we are cleaning up that which was done in previous years when launches were freer and no thought was given to the aftermath.

Speaking of this, what is the value of sustainability in space?

These types of orbital systems are an excellent example of a circular and sustainable economy: up to 80 percent of the water is recycled, they are totally energy independent thanks to solar panels and they help us develop technologies that have a return on earth, which we can apply in our everyday lives. The same applies to lunar exploration, where the touch-down is no longer nationalistic, it is not a matter of who gets there first but of trying to build more or less permanent habitats and utilise resources found on site for water and oxygen production and protection against radiation.

Since you have been appointed a member of the astronaut reserve and you look up at the sky, what is it like to see the moon?
I don't look up at the sky anymore because it scares me (laughs, ed.). Sometimes, as a joke, when I am with my boyfriend, I look at the moon and wink at it.

When you meet peers or younger people, what is the message you want to convey?

To the younger ones, I say do not be afraid to make difficult choices. I then try to draw attention to how wrong a certain type of narrative is, which is still present, that if you are a girl and choose a technical-scientific career you will have a hard time, because it is not a place for women. Finally, I say that one does not necessarily become an astronaut. I did well, but one of the last stages, the medical tests, does not depend on our efforts and passing it is not a merit. So we cannot condition our happiness on a goal that entails such a large component of luck. I always say that if it had gone wrong I would not have felt like a failure. Even without being an astronaut, all the way through, I would still have found myself passionately doing that which I love.

Find this and many other articles in MAP, the magazine of Politecnico di Milano Alumni, coming out very soon! Want to support the project and receive the Magazine at home in hard copy? Donate here!

Poli is in the top 7% of the best universities in europe

In the 2023 ranking for Europe (source QS University Rankings), Politecnico di Milano is in the top 7% of the best universities (690 in total). We remain firmly in first place in Italy, while in global university rankings, we have achieved our highest position in history, ranking 123rd out of a total 1,500 universities worldwide. For the first time, Politecnico enters the top 9% of universities worldwide that are recognised for their excellence.

According to QS, the university has demonstrated excellent performance, which ranks among the top 20 universities worldwide in the fields of Design (8th position), Architecture (10th position) and Engineering (18th position).

You often read news about there being more and more talk of university rankings. But what are they? On what criteria are they based? And more importantly... do we really care?


There are dozens of rankings and sub-rankings. They are generally decided by private companies, from publishing companies to consulting companies. For example, Times Higher Education, a British periodical, The “Shanghai” ranking, as it is informally known, is published by the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy.The QS ranking, mentioned above, is developed by Quacquarelli Symonds.

No ranking is “definitive”: Francesca Saracino, Head of CareerService, explains: "Those mentioned receive the most attention in the media, but there isn't one, independent supranational body that defines once and for all the parameters for deciding which is the best university. There are various points of view and academic systems, leading to a lack of universal or international consensus on what defines a university. Some do research, others do not; some cover a range of subjects; others, like ours, are very focussed. The results obtained by these ranking systems vary considerably depending on the method and criteria used”.


This varied approach amongst different geopolitical regions reflects the variety of perspectives towards the academic and university system. In other words, you might find that Politecnico is ranked 1st in one ranking, 50th in another, and might not appear at all in another. But it is always good to bear this in mind. First of all, Saracino continues, “Students recognise that graduating from a highly ranked university can give them a competitive edge when seeking prestigious career opportunities as some companies consider university rankings as a factor when hiring. Researchers also find value in rankings as a means of staying informed about the strong universities in their fields of interest. In this sense, university rankings serve as a powerful tool for attracting talent on an international scale as the strong marketing associated with them ensures that universities are recognised globally, reaching various corners of the world. They also provide universities with a useful benchmark for comparison: we are able to see how we fare against our competitors and make strategic decisions accordingly".


They are therefore a tool rather than a goal. And in this sense it is useful to know which indicators we are strong in and those we still need to work on. They also provide insights into the shortcomings within the national and international environments in which we operate.

In the “Student Faculty” indicator, which measures the number of lecturers per student, Italian universities perform poorly. This is due to the structural limitations imposed by the Ministry of Universities and Research regarding the recruitment of lecturers.

On the other hand, we perform very well in Employer Reputation, an indicator that assesses the global opinions of employers regarding how well a university prepares its graduates for the world of work. We also receive positive recognition in the Academic Reputation indicator, based on the responses of thousands of academics who are asked to list the most prestigious universities in their scientific disciplines. Our university ranks among the top 100 universities worldwide in terms of academic and business reputation. Certain internationalisation indicators, such as the number of international staff and students, have shown improvement in recent years, particularly the new International Research Network indicator, which assesses the level of international collaboration in scientific research.


Gli Alumni possono unirsi alla comunità internazionale dei referenti aziendali e condividere la loro opinione con QS su quali siano le migliori università nel mondo. Chi desidera farlo, può registrarsi per esprimere il proprio interesse a partecipare alla QS Global Employer Survey 2024: QS potrebbe contattare gli interessati via email entro i primi mesi del 2024, invitandoli a partecipare alla survey. Le risposte verranno lette in maniera aggregata per costruire gli indicatori di Employer Reputation che figurano nel QS World University Rankings. Register at this link

Find this and many other articles in MAP, the magazine of Politecnico di Milano Alumni, coming out very soon! Want to support the project and receive the Magazine at home in hard copy? Donate here!