Five researches capable of affecting the most difficult challenges of our time, five young Italian scientists who have carried them forward in research facilities in North America, helping to build bridges between the beautiful country and the international scientific community. They are the winners of the ISSNAF Awards 2020, promoted by Italian Scientists and Scholars in North America Foundation, a non-profit foundation that represents the Italian intellectual diaspora throughout North America, with a network of over 3,000 affiliates. The award ceremony took place in an event held digitally on 1 December 2020.
The ISSNAF annual meeting, under theHigh Patronage of the President of the Republic, it opened with a welcome greeting from the Italian Ambassador to the United States Armando Varricchio. The Minister of University and Research spoke live from Italy Gaetano Manfredi. The presence of Minister Manfredi and the fundamental support of the Embassy of Italy underline the growing importance of this appointment.
The Young Investigators Awards 2020 were awarded to five young researchers for their significant contribution to research in each of the four specific sectors of the awards, one of which was awarded ex-aequo to two winners: from the fight against Covid-19 to the treatment of particularly aggressive lymphomas, from the prediction of effects of climate change to investigations on the presence of water on other planets, up to the study of electron dynamics in materials. Alba Grifoni, a researcher from Rome at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology (California), won the Embassy of Italy Award this year for researchers fighting Covid-19. Patrizia Mondello, a researcher from Messina at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, was awarded the Paola Campese Award for research on leukemia. TO Marco Bernardi, teacher at Caltech, e Marzia Parisi, NASA / JPL researcher, both Roman, went ex aequo the Franco Strazzabosco Award for engineering. Stefano Ermon, originally from Trento and professor at Stanford University, received the Mario Gerla Award for research in computer science.
Young Investigator Awards: focus on the winners
Embassy of Italy Award - Alba Grifoni, Roman and graduate of Tor Vergata University, is a researcher at the Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. In the Californian institute he works in the laboratory directed by Alessandro Sette to investigate the T cells and the "cross" immune response, that is, caused by other more common viruses, in patients affected and then cured of Covid. These works have resulted in publications in journals such as Cell and Science. The article published in Cell in June 2020 had great resonance in the scientific community and was quoted publicly at a congress in Washington DC by Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID, the US national institute for the prevention of infectious diseases.
Paola Campese Award - Patrizia Mondello, of Messina, Advanced Oncology Fellow at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) of New York studies the diffuse large B cell lymphoma, one of the most aggressive tumors, with genomic mutation of the CREBBP gene. His research led to the discovery of the mechanism that allows to reactivate the immune system and to inhibit the proliferation of lymphoma cells. A system that, working in synergy with some immunotherapy drugs, is able to eradicate tumors. It is an extraordinary discovery that has also been given the green light by the FDA, the US government body that deals with the regulation of drugs, so much so that in January 2021 the treatment could be submitted to the first patients.
Mario Gerla Award - Stefano Ermon, born in Trento and graduated in computer engineering at the University of Padua, is now a professor of computer science at Stanford University. Here he developed advanced algorithms which, by analyzing satellite images, are able to collect data on climate change, deforestation, population movements, famines and pollution. By processing this data you can also make forecasts on economic indicators, and understand if certain areas of the world are getting better or worse. The answers that Ermon's research team gets are open source, available to the academic world.
Franco Strazzabosco Award - Marco Bernardi, born in Rome, graduated in Chemistry at the three-year degree at Sapienza and then in Materials Sciences at the specialization at Tor Vergata. After a PhD from MIT in Boston in 2015 he landed in Caltech (California Institute of Technology), where he is now a teacher. His group studies the dynamics of electrons in materials, with applications in electronics, optoelectronics, renewable energy devices, quantum technologies and ultrafast spectroscopy. His research has made a fundamental contribution in these fields and opens the way to potential applications on new materials and new directions in materials theory.
Franco Strazzabosco Award - Marzia Parisi, in Rome, graduated from La Sapienza University and has various experiences abroad, such as the one in Israel at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Tel Aviv, where she worked on the NASA Juno mission, active around Jupiter since 2016. After contributing to the JUICE mission of ESA (European Space Agency) he works today for the NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of Caltech (California Institute of Technology), where he investigates there presence of water or underground oceans on Jupiter's moons. At NASA, the researcher also worked inside the so-called dark room, the operations room where data is collected.
Lifetime Achievement Award 2020 to Guido Calabresi
The Lifetime Achievement Award 2020 was assigned to Guido Calabresi, a lawyer born in Milan and active from an early age in the USA, where he is a federal judge of the Court of Appeal and was dean of the prestigious Yale Law School. Judge Calabresi, in his "Lectio", recalled, despite the 80 years spent in the USA, that he always felt deeply Italian. "It is a special honor for me to receive this award, because it is the recognition of what I have always wanted to be: a bridge between Italy and the United States," said Calabresi. «Transplanting elements of jurisprudence from one country to another is a bit like transplanting organs on a human body. It's difficult, but when done right it can be vital. To do this, you need to be very careful and know the "body" of the giver and the recipient well. Just as I have tried to do in the legal field, ISSNAF, thanks to its meritorious work, is a bridge between Italy and the USA in the field of research ».
Founded in 2007 under the auspices of the Italian Embassy in the United States on the initiative of 36 well-known scientists and academics, including 4 Nobel Laureates, ISSNAF is a non-profit foundation that promotes cooperation in science, academia and technology between researchers and scholars. Italians operating in North America and the world of pure and applied research in Italy. With a network of over 3,000 affiliates that includes distinguished scientists and young researchers in all disciplines, ISSNAF represents the Italian intellectual diaspora throughout North America.