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2023 Year in Review

Here are the highlights of a successful year!

 

2023 Annual Event

 

As in previous years, the 2023 ISSNAF Annual Event was held at the Italian Embassy in Washington D.C. and was honored by the High Patronage of the President of Italy.

 

The event on November 8 opened with a video message from the Minister of Health Orazio Schillaci, followed by live addresses by Ambassador Mariangela Zappia, INFN Vice President Diego Bettoni and ISSNAF President Cinzia Zuffada. The meeting presented a reflection on the social impact that neurodegenerative diseases, particularly those related to aging populations, have on societies in terms of the need for treatment and support services. Of particular interest are the policies implemented to address growing needs, the state of research in the sectors involved and the role of philanthropy in raising public and entrepreneurial awareness. The discussion, in alignment with the theme of the 2023 ISSNAF Young Investigator “Embassy of Italy Award for fundamental contributions to research on neurodegenerative diseases”, consisted of a series of policy communications followed by a focused round table on research.

The policy speakers were Dr. Luigi Ferrucci of the National Institutes of Health - National Institute of Aging, Dr. Richard Nicholls of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Ekemini Riley of the Coalition for Aligning Sciences, and Prof. Marco Silano of the Istituto Superiore di Sanita'. The round table featured Prof. David Hafler of Yale University and Prof. David Sulzer of Columbia University and was moderated by Prof. Alessandro Sette of La Jolla Institute of Immunology, a member of our Scientific Council.

 

In keeping with our tradition, the second half of the event featured the presentation of the 2023 ISSNAF Awards. Six Young Investigator Awards were presented to outstanding early-career researchers. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Prof. Federico Capasso of Harvard University.

 

Watch the recording at Annual Event 2023.

 

1 H.E. M. Zappia, Ambassador of Italy to the US, addresses the attendees to the ISSNAF Annual Event on November 8


Membership

 

230 new members have joined our network in 2024 bringing the total number to 3630. The nine ISSNAF Chapters stretch from California to Florida, through Texas, and from Washington State to NY through DC.  They are an expression of the richness of our community and represent the training grounds for the future leadership of ISSNAF. Chapter Executive Committees work with volunteers to increase the membership, organize networking and educational events, support and communicate our programs locally and are active ambassadors of ISSNAF with organizations in their territories.

 

In the spirit of celebrating outstanding members, we have initiated collecting and publishing their “Stories”. They provide a candid and precious testimony of their professional journey in a video interview. https://www.issnaf.org/blog/categories/stories

 

Chapter Events

Our Chapters have held numerous networking and education events and partnered with their Consulate, and/or Italian Cultural Institute (IIC) in the organization of events such as the celebration of the Italian Research Day in the World and Italian National Space Day, among others.

 

The Los Angeles Chapter featured two networking ice-breakers and two more formal events featuring round table discussions, all organized in partnership with the LA Consulate and IIC.  Specifically, a multidisciplinary discussion titled “From Genes to Stars: How Italian Researchers Explore Human Beings and the Universe” was held in celebration of the Day of Italian Research in the World whereas a conversation on collaborative efforts between Italy and the US was presented to celebrate Italian Space Day. Recordings of these events are available at 


2. Virgin Galactic Vice President S. Bandla, Sapienza Prof. L. Iess, and NASA/JPL Director L. Leshin discuss space missions at the IIC in Los Angeles on December 17, 2023


The San Diego Chapter featured three events consisting of presentations by two speakers at each gathering, followed by discussions and a buffet held at the home of the chapter co-chair. Topics included aerospace engineering, immunology, precision medicine in oncology, the journey from molecular biology to AI, AI for medical diagnostics and cryptography. More information can be found at the links below.

 


3. Group photo of the San Diego chapter members attending the gathering at the home of co-chair G. Paternostro


The West South Central Chapter organized four events in collaboration with the Comites Houston beginning with an ice-breaker and followed by a more formal gathering exploring how mental health issues affect immigrant professional to the US. The third event featured an Italian academic humanist and book author, Andrea Bajani, who examined the value of literature as a means for cultural exchange between Italy and the US. The fourth event was dedicated to mentoring and how the interactions between mentor and mentee can be designed to be mutually benefitting their personal and professional trajectory.

 

The DMV Chapter (District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia) started out 2023 by participating in the annual Italian Research Day in the World held at the Embassy of Italy on April 20. Two scientific networking events followed, where speakers shared their experiences coming to the US and getting established in careers spanning astrophysics,

 

4. The scene at Fellini Rice in Houston for the mentoring discussion on December 8, 2023

economics, chemical weapons control, Earth remote sensing and pharma.

 

In October, the chapter attended the ninth annual meeting of the European Scientific Diasporas in North America organized by EURAXESS at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.


5. The scene at La Casina in DC for the DMV Apericena on May 1, 2023


The Southeast Chapter celebrated its launch with the “The Mediterranean diet in art and medicine” conference. The event was sponsored by the Italian Consulate in Miami, also in celebration of the Day of Italian Research in the World, and the Tampa Museum of Art hosted the conference. The main presentations were on the archaeology of the Mediterranean diet and history of lasagna and their evolution in different Italian regions.

A creative exhibit of mannequins wearing costumes with colors representing those of iconic Italian food, created by Italian fashion designer Marcus Menniti was featured during lunch. The conference concluded with an informative tour of Greek and Roman antiquities guided by Dr. Branko van Hoppen, Tampa Museum Curator.

 

6. Co-chair M. Tauro welcomes the attendees at the launch of the SE chapter on May 8, 2023

 

The Bay Area Chapter (BAC, Greater San Francisco Bay Area) has held, or collaborated on, a number of networking and education events.

 

At each BAC Talk four members informally present their research to a general, yet highly educated audience. The two 2023 events were hosted by the Museo Italo-Americano and ISSIMI. The local winners of the 2022 ISSNAF Young Investigator Awards, together with researchers and entrepreneurs spoke on topics ranging from Umberto Eco, to autism, particle physics, lasers, and neuroscience.

  

7. BAC Talks event at the Museo Italo-Americano in SF


BAC organized Ambassador Zappia’s visit to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where she had the opportunity to get in-depth tours of some of the premier facilities at the laboratory, including the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) and the Advanced Light Source.

 

8. H.E. Ambassador Zappia at LBNL


A Fireside Chat event featured Roberto Carlino, who has participated in NASA's simulated mission to Mars, and Prof. Marcello Romano, POLITO, ISSNAF Board Member.

 

Focusing on its younger members, BAC held its first Speed Networking event on the UC Berkeley campus. The meeting gives an opportunity to all participants to meet and learn about everyone else's activities in an informal setting. BAC also collaborated to the organization of the Fulbright Career Development webinar, that was moderated by Prof. Luigi Pistaferri of Stanford University.

 

   Internationalization Activities

 

Kick Started Italian Student Mobility towards North America

One important ISSNAF goal is to make our collective expertise available to Italian universities, companies, foundations, and other entities engaged in internationalization activities, such as people mobility, personnel exchange programs and increased collaborations. In the spirit of giving back, our members provide their expertise and access to innovative thinking that can support the development of Italian ecosystems of universities, incubators and entrepreneurs. We think that our community’s unique perspective could help enrich, accelerate, and expand the preparation of the next generation of researchers and managers of R&D in Italy. This is beneficial to the Sistema Paese.

 

ISSNAF has a history of partnering with Italian organizations to give outstanding students and new graduates the opportunity to spend a period of study or research at North American universities and national laboratories. ISSNAF role has been to facilitate access through our network of members.

 

University Partners

The partnerships with the Universita’ di Pisa and the Politecnico di Torino, which was formalized 3 years ago, continue to bear fruit. In 2023 about 30 Master and PhD students have been hosted at prestigious US and Canadian universities and participated in research projects.

Specifically, ISSNAF identifies researchers in North America who are interested in hosting competitively selected students (from each of these two universities) in their laboratories for periods ranging from 3 to 6 months or longer, for enrichment experiences during their Master or PhD studies.  The eligible students are evaluated and accepted by their American hosts; they obtain a formal visiting appointment at the hosting institution and are supported financially by their home university and other sources.

 

Scaling up with MUR Funding

We believe that expanding the student mobility program to more universities and a larger network of hosts would be of great value to the Sistema Paese. The mobility initiative will foster collaborations between researchers and laboratories in Italy and North America.

 

Based on the positive experience with the Universita’ di Pisa and the Politecnico di Torino, in the spring of 2023 we submitted a proposal to the Italian Ministry of University and Research’s Internationalization Office to fund a project to scale up the mobility programs in a systematic and sustained way. Our proposal has been accepted and funds have been allocated starting in November 2023 until the end of 2025. The project entails developing a database of hosting and collaboration opportunities provided by ISSNAF members and affiliates throughout North America. In this way we will be able to serve more Italian universities.

 

 

Young ISSNAF  

Young ISSNAF refers to our activities focused on early-career researchers in North America. Our programs provide networking, professional development opportunities, mentoring and recognition of their outstanding research contributions.

 

Young Investigator Awards

The ISSNAF Young Investigator Awards recognize outstanding early-career Italian researchers in North America operating in six different research disciplines. We are very grateful to our sponsors for choosing ISSNAF to fund these awards, which provide encouragement and acknowledgement to new generations of researchers. The ISSNAF Scientific Council leads the review and award process. In 2023, we received 57 well qualified applications, from which 7 award winners were selected. There was almost perfect gender balance in the pools of applicants and winners.

 

Mentoring Programs

The Young ISSNAF Mentoring programs provides career guidance to our early-career members as well as to students in Italy interested in exploring North American opportunities as they plan their education and career steps. In 2023 there were 19 mentor-mentee pairings.

 

The Mentoring Program for Collegio Ghislieri students, introduced in 2021, is tailored to their needs through an interactive process with its students.

 

Career Development

The opportunities offered by the Fulbright program were the focus of a career development webinar. The panel was organized with the support of the Bay Area Chapter. It presented Paola Sartorio, Executive Director, US-Italy Fulbright Commission, and included a panel discussion with testimonials by former recipients of Fulbright fellowships. The panel was moderated by Prof. Luigi Pistaferri of Stanford University. 


Revenues and Expenses

Since 2018 ISSNAF has operated without an Executive Director or any paid staff and has relied almost exclusively on volunteers’ work. This arrangement has allowed ISSNAF to operate at very low cost, but it has limited its growth. We are pleased that the 2023 financial results have improved and will allow us to embark on a judicious expansion.

 

In 2023 revenues consisted of the YI Awards sponsorships, the contributions of two university to our expenses in support of student mobility, the payments for services rendered to the Embassy of Italy, and the Ministry of University and Research’s initial payment for the nascent Internationalization project. Donations from an Italian partner and from a few ISSNAF members were also received.

Expenses in 2023 were for the IT infrastructure and website development, the travel and lodging for speakers and

awardees attending the Annual Event, and the catering for the Annual Event. Note that the award sponsorships do not completely cover the expense associated with the Awards program. It is noted that the ISSNAF board members travel at their own expenses when attending the Annual Event or participating in other events on behalf of ISSNAF in the US or in Italy.


Your Donation Makes a Difference  

Like many non-profit organizations, ISSNAF relies on the support of members and friends to meet its expenses given that there is no membership fee to join ISSNAF.  Donations are tax deductible and help keep ISSNAF vibrant and sustain its programs. Specifically, donors can:

1)      Support Italian students’ mobility to North America by supplementing the Italian institutions’ limited mobility funds. Many of the top-tier US universities require that students have minimum monthly funds superior to the amount offered by Italian universities. ISSNAF would like to raise a pool of $30,000 to supplement their scholarship when necessary. A supplement of $1000 per student per month would be adequate to meet several of the American university requirements.

 

2)      Sponsor an ISSNAF Award and join our distinguished cadre of award sponsors to expand the opportunities to recognize outstanding contributions of Italian researchers in North America.

 

3)      Become an Event Sponsor and help offset expenses of our Annual Event at the Italian Embassy.

 

Make your tax deductible donation! No amount is too small, and donors can designate where their contributions are directed.


Thank you to our volunteers and sponsors!

 

We are very grateful to our volunteers and financial sponsors.  It would not be possible to operate without their continued support!  


 

 

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