Last week I attended the Frontiers International Conference on Wastewater Treatment in Palermo, Italy. The organizers had put a lot of effort to invite well renowned persons as key note speakers and although it was a bit weird to me that they had choosen 100% white men the speakers without doubt gave very good presentation on the state of the art in their respective area of research. The layout of the conference with no parallell sessions made it easy to interact and I got to discuss my research – and other topics of interest – with experienced researchers in my field.
“Vucciria” is a typical popular area in the city of Palermo, in Sicily, south of Italy. In this area, every morning the people from Palermo and surroundings set up the food market of the city. This market reveals the inner nature of the people, the urban people as well as the ones coming from the country side, the fisherman and all type of characters you can find in a working-class area. This market indeed gave the inspiration to some Italian artists which wanted to represent a scene of the real life. “Vucciria” in fact is the name and the main topic of one of the most famous paint of the Italian Realism. The “Vucciria” paint made by Renato Guttuso shows the stands of the local food-market with the people both buying stuff and selling their products. Is a very famous paint of that artistic trend called Socialistic Realism. Anyway, walking on those narrow streets in the morning while the market is set up, is an experience anyone should live. But, on the other hand, it has to be said that those narrow streets, during the night, change their aspect. This neighborhood transforms itself into a place where to have a beer (or more than one), listen to music, dance, talk with and meet local people, and of course, to eat! (YES, in Sicily, you have to eat a lot! There you can find the best food in the world…According to my opinion….).
Over these past two years, I have gotten familiar with a range of open source tools (that means free!), that have greatly helped me to cope with my daily work. They are many, and each one of them definitely deserves its own blog entry. However, we don’t have that much time, so I will describe the most important ones. If you think they might be useful, I suggest you take a look.
Mobility is one of the main cores of European Marie-Curie research fellowships. As PhD fellows, we have the opportunity to travel, engage international research groups and integrate into other cultures. However, we also must deal with lots of paperwork. When moving from one country to another, we not only need to move our personal stuff but also our social security provided by our home institution. I know this can be a pain in the neck for many PhD students. This is the reason why I am going to use this entry to share my knowledge on how I managed to have social security in Belgium, being ICRA my home institution.
Starting something could be seen either as an instantaneous action or as an endless process. In physics we use the terminology t=0 to refers to the beginning of a specific event; such as the movement of a sphere on a sloping plane. In this case, the start corresponds at the instant when the sphere begins its own motion. Same thing if we consider a stone falling from the Pisa’s tower. In fact, according to the legend, Galileo climbed the Pisa’s tower in order to study the gravity fall of some stones. Basically he was throwing these stones from the tower and then doing some math. In his studies, t=0 was the second he was releasing the stone. And we could go on with many other similar examples. But, can we really say that “the discovery of the law of gravity” began with those throwing? Wouldn’t be maybe more precise to say that the discovery started a bit earlier? Is not true that Galileo went on top of that tower just because he had started a thinking before? So, we can also look at that throw as “the end” of a longer process which started Only-Galileo-Knows-When!
We change and transform bit by bit. Often we don’t notice it and maintain the feeling of the constant I for the longest periods of time. Recently, in a moment of self-reflection, I looked back at myself in the past. The amount of personal change since the start of my Ph.D. amazed me. Most of it is positive and offered some insight to me into the importance of self-managed ventures as a Ph.D.
As it happens with newspapers and scientific journals, the title of the article is essential to capture the reader’s attention. In fact, when I get into the TED talks website -if you don’t know what this is, I highly recommend you to google it- the title of the talk decides entirely what I watch.
Humans adapt fast. With the advent of internet and its great services came a new philosophy of trust. Before we were trusting in institutions, for example a reputable hotel or taxis approved by the government. Now we happily rent a room in the apartment of some dude with a lot of likes on Airbnb. Or we decide to go on a road trip of several hundred kilometres with a stranger suggested by Blablacar. The paradigm of trust is changing in a beautiful way with technology. Yet we have to take care about the arrival of crowd-sourced trust. If left unsupervised this celebration of faith can turn sour for us both as service providers and clients in the future.
Before starting this project, everyone had warned me about the drawbacks of pursuing a PhD: “a PhD is very hard”, “you will have to work during the weekends”, “publishing articles is very difficult”, “you need to select carefully your research topic, otherwise it will become too tough”, “you will be much older than the rest of PhD students and you will finish it even older, are you sure u want to start one now?”. However, no one told me that sometimes I was going to feel alone during the PhD. Yes, discovering that feeling was a great surprise for me.