An Italian delegation participated in a bilateral technical visit on September 14-16, 2022, in the Washington DC area. The visit was principally co-organized by Dr. Luigi Ambrosio, Former Director of Institute for Polymers, Composites and Biomaterials of the Italian National Research Council (CNR) and Dr. Sofi Bin Salamon at US Air Force Office of Science and Research (AFOSR) as part of the Advanced Materials, Nanotechnology and Biophysics activities supported by the US Science and Technology Cooperation agreement. The distinguished Italian delegation was represented by CNR and in particular by the Institute of Organic Synthesis and Photoreactivity (ISOF), Institute of Science and Technology for Ceramics (ISTEC), Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems (IMM), Institute of Polymers, Composites and Biomaterials (IPCB) and University of Rome Tor Vergata – Centre for Hybrid and Organic Solar Energy.
In Washington D.C., the delegation joined a Technical Exchange Meeting hosted by AFOSR and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to explore areas of scientific collaboration in biophysics and nanomanufacturing. The meeting was held at the John Hopkins University (JHU) School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) campus and included discussions on how to collaborate and allow the exchange skills and information on nanomaterials, biophysics, and nanomanufacturing. The objective was to promote and foster the creation of interdisciplinary communities that employ new nanomaterials including nanodiamonds and quantum dots, for diagnostics, treatment, and a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying biological processes, particularly related to brain function.
Additionally, the Italian participants meet at the Embassy of Italy with their US counterparts which included AFOSR, National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Airspace Systems (NAS), and others, to discuss the Advanced Material and Nanotechnology working group, including Biophysics, accomplishments. The discussion coordinated by Dr. Marco Gilli and Dr. Maurizio Biasini, Science Counselors, focused on the scientific results and the path forward between Italian and US collaboration.
“The success of the working group, thanks also to the contribution of the young researchers involved, made it possible to achieve objectives beyond expectations,” says Luigi Ambrosio.
Following the technical exchange meeting, the Italian delegation attended side visits to American universities that shared the research activities within the working group – University of Maryland (UMD) and JHU
At UMD, Dr. Greg Ball, Vice President for Research, Dr. Konstantina Trivisa, Director, Institute for Physical Science and Technology and Dr. Wolfgang Losert, Professor and Associate Dean, welcomed the delegation which had the opportunity to meet with the researchers involved in adaptive nanotopographies; bioelectronics and CHIPS Act Opportunities; and 3D nanoprinting-enabled biomedical applications. The visit continued at the Department of Physics labs and Innovate, Design and Engineering for America (IDEA) factory which includes the Quantum Technology Center.
The visit also included a visit to Physics labs and highlighted an active collaboration between UMD, CNR, and the University of Bari that links Italian expertise in biomaterials and astrocytes with US multiscale imaging and complex systems knowledge. The team described findings that are transforming our understanding of information processing in neural networks.
Johns Hopkins University hosted the delegation on their final day at the Homewood campus in Baltimore. Dr. Larry Nagahara, Vice Dean for Research & Translation at the Whiting School of Engineering (WSE), led the visit to several labs at WSE including the Ultrafast & Nonlinear Photonics Lab, Photonics for Quantitative Biology and Medicine Lab, the Mechanical Engineering of Wet-materials (MEOW) Lab, and the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute (HEMI).
As part of the visit, Dr. Luigi Nicolais, Professor Emeritus, University of Naples, Former President of National Research Council of Italy, and President of Materias srl was giving a lecture titled “From Research to Business: Italy’s Perspective.”
The lecture highlighted Dr. Nicolais’s success story as the initial AFOSR PI which triggered his future carrier as a scientist. Dr. Nicolais recognized Dr. Ambrosio and Dr. Bin-Salamon and the support of the Italian Embassy in the United States as catalysts for developing the US and Italian collaboration.
“Dr. Nicolais’ distinguished career epitomizes the impact of international collaborations in establishing nascent topics from the basic sciences and transforming them into real-world applications. Non-classical sensing applied to biophysical phenomena is a rapidly emerging area and AFOSR is playing a critical part in catalyzing this field with Italy and other countries around the world.”
Results and accomplishments
In preparation for the upcoming Italy- US S&T joint commission meeting scheduled for early 2023 in Rome, the working group members have highlighted the success of the research portfolio created in the past years resulting in 20 research projects funded to the various participants of this Cooperative Agreement. In particular, these activities generated multimillion EU projects founded by the European Commission (C3HARME – PI Diletta Sciti from ISTEC and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie ASTROTECH – PI Valentina Benfenati from ISOF) as seeds of the activity performed within this working group.
Among the WG activities, it is important to acknowledge the mobility exchange funded by CNR and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI) accomplished by Annalisa Convertino as PI (IMM), Dr. Maria Grazia Raucci (IPCB) as partner and Dr. Ishan Barman (JHU WSE) as co-PI which resulted in developing new anticancer nanomaterials. The MAECI funded also a project involving Dr. Diletta Sciti as PI (ISTEC), Dr. Stefania Cantoni (CIRA) as partner and Dr. Rishi Raj as co-PI which resulted in the development of advanced materials for critical conditions.
The success of the bilateral “Advanced Materials, Biophysics, and Nanomanufacturing” working group showcases the commitment to continue in the mission of promoting cooperation between countries through the development of scientific and technological collaboration, common visions and models of interaction and dynamics that will be crucial to generate the knowledge necessary to face global challenges.