Tuesday, June 15, 2010

L'Aquila Receives Aftershocks on June 10

I departed from L'Aquila to Rome on June 10, 2010 around 2:30 in the afternoon with Anna Tozzi of the University's International Office. On Friday, June 11, I met in Rome with Professor Margherita Mori. She informed me that after my departure from L'Aquila there was a series of shocks in the area. This is the list of earthquake activity since I departed:
June 10, 3:35 pm, magnitudo 2.3
June 12, 10:24 am, mag. 2
June 12, 10:31 am, mag. 2.1
June 14, 9:40 am, mag. 2.5
The website to get further information is: http://cnt.rm.ingv.it/earthquakes_list.php
INGV is the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia.
I called several of my new friends in L'Aquila to express my concerns. They appeared to be taking it in stride. My prayers are with them that these small shocks will be all that they experience. This reminded me of the fear after Katrina of future hurricanes hitting the area. The population in L'Aquila is returning and working to rebuild houses and their lives. I certainly hope that they will not be hit again.

Completion of Fulbright Specialists in Economic Development Program

My five-week Fulbright Specialists assignment is completed. We have accomplished much during this visit and I will return with a signed agreement from the Universita' degli Studi L'Aquila and LSU. There are many areas for joint collaboration and faculty / student exchanges. In addition. There are three identified joint research initiatives that are possible and I have identified possible LSU partners to link with the L'Aquila researchers. The town of L'Aquila is still in disrepair, much like New Orleans one year after Katrina. It is very sad to see an ancient city in shambles. Buildings built in the 14th century are in jeopardy of falling and the center city historic area is called the red zone and blocked off for safety. There are cranes and scaffolding holding up buildings built in the 14th century. The Provincia and university would like us to assist with several seminars on disaster management, resiliency and disaster preparedness. Also, they need help in planned growth. The university has 9 spin off technology companies interested in having a "soft landing" in the USA at the LBTC in Baton Rouge. I made great friends with great people in L'Aquila and at the University. Also, the Fulbright Office of the US State Department have encouraged me to find additional Fulbright Specialists and faculty at LSU that would like to come to Italy and assist in the recovery and redevelopment. I have had several meetings in Rome with the Fulbright leadership and will contact them for follow up assistance. I will do a final recap of the project as well as post more pictures from L'Aquila and Rome.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Agreement between the University of L'Aquila and LSU

Before I left Baton Rouge, I contacted the International Office of LSU A&M to get the standard form for Letter's of Intent between two universities. I was given a document to submit to the Universita degli Studi dell'Aquila, which I gave to Professors Anna Tozzi, Margherita Mori and Lelio Iapadre. Upon completing meetings on Wednesday, I recieved a signed agreement letter in both Italian and English, signed by Rector Ferdinando di Orio, Rector, University of L'Aquila on June 7, 2010. I am bringing this document to LSU for review and signature to confirm the Letter of Intent. It basically states that both universities are interested in organizing and performing joint research projects, academic seminars and guest lectures and would foster exchanges of scholarly materials, research reports and publications. There are many areas of common interest between the two universities.

Last Lunch in L'Aquila

Before we departed L'Aquila for my final meetings in Rome, Professor Anna Tozzi took us to a great restaurant, Ristorante Tipico Villa Feronia, a classic Italian restaurant from the historic center that was damaged badly by the earthquake and has now relocated to a rural area near town. This has been the case, and much like New Orleans after Katrina, where the good restaurants were forced to relocate into new areas, but maintained their excellent food and service. It was always a pleasure visiting the restaurants with the faculty and the people of L'Aquila as they could tell us the history, order the house specialties and converse with the owners. We were treated with excellent anti-pasta, specialty vegetables of the area, two pasta dishes and dessert. Oh, and the bread. They had a unique bread that was near a beignet - light puff and fried. Professor Tozzi is in charge of International Affairs for the University of L'Aquila and we discussed the agreement between LSU and L'Aquila and the potential areas for collaboration. We have made dear friends in L'Aquila and Rome. After staying 5 weeks in an area, you are not a tourists. You become one of the "locals" and I believe that Susan and I have made friends for life from both the University, the Fulbright staff, the Canadian Hotel owners and staff, several university students, many university faculty and local residents. It has been a great experience, like no other that I can relate.

June 9, last night in L'Aquila

My wife and I left the Canadian Hotel in L'Aquila and walked down the street to one of the restaurants located within walking distance of the hotel. It was a warm night with a slight breeze. When we arrived at the restaurant of choice, it was 7:20pm. The manager told us to come back at 7:30 when they opened. In five weeks, we still were not used to eating later than 7:30, which is the custom in most of Italy. In fact, in most restaurants in L'Aquila, the locals begin arriving between 8:30 and 9:00 pm. One humerous experience was when we arrived at La Botte, a nice restaurant that like so many others had to relocate from the historic central city to various locations after the earthquake, the owner was eating dinner with his staff. He seated us at our table and we were the only ones there (7:30 pm). He returned to his table and finished eating about 7:50pm. Then and only then did he come to our table and ask us for our order. At about 9:15, when we were finishing dinner, the restaurant filled up with the local patrons and we got to enjoy the festive atmosphere as the crowd arrived. The interesting thing that we observed in our 5 weeks in L'Aquila was being able to observe the recovery firsthand. One the street of our hotel, shops and restaurants began to open from week to week. Unfortunately for us, it was on the last night in L'Aquila that we discovered the opening of a great Gelateria only 4 blocks from the hotel. We did partake in the excellent gelato on the last night.

June 9 Visit to Dompe'

Dompe' is one of Italy's top Biotech companies and they have located a manufacturing, research and development and GMP production plant in L'Aquila. They sustained some damage during the earthquake but are back into full production. They facility is quite impressive and their technical expertise is in molecular biology, recombinant protein production by bacteria and yeasts, and production & purification protocalls development and optimization. Professor Rodolfo Ippoliti, of the L'Aquila Faculty of Biotechnologie hosted my tour and introduced me to Dr. Franck Martin, Contract Development Business Development Manager and Marcello Allegretti, Research and Development Director for Dompe'. We had a great visit and tour of this world class facility. They had interest in receiveing information on Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation at LSU, the LBTC at LSU and the Louisiana Emerging Technology Center and the Monsanto Biotech Incubator in St. Louis, which I told them about. I will send information and contacts to them when I return to Baton Rouge. They showed me their GMP facility, the lab scale fermentation and purification plants, the clinical grade production plant, the GMP protein characterization facility, and their clinical & toxicology support labs. Dr. Martin and Mr. Allegretti expressed interest in getting information on how they could convert several unused labs into a "bio-tech" incubator space that could accommodate university spin off bio-tech companies. I told them about the operations of the LBTC and the Emerging Technology Center and pull up their web sites for their review. I will send them policies and procedures on how they could organize that faciltiy and I will contact collegues at the Monsanto Facility to send supporting information. Professor Ippoliti was very interested in this concept and feels that there are some small start-ups that would take advantage of this situation. We will continue to communicate on this and I will assist them with information and documentation as needed. Attached are pictures of the facility that I took during the tour.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dompe Pharmaceutical Company Visit June 9

Today, I will be visiting the Dompe' Pharmaceutical company with Professor Rololfo Ippoliti. From the website: "The Dompé family’s commitment to the pharmaceutical industry dates back to the second half of the 19th century when Gian Antonio Dompé, the founder of the dynasty, with a passion for chemical and pharmaceutical science, opened a chemist’s in Piazza della Scala, Milan. More than a pharmacy it was a meeting place, or better an institution frequented by Verdi, Leoncavallo and Puccini." In the nineties, the company decided to strengthen their industrial commitment in Italy and, in 1993, founded, in L’Aquila, Dompé spa, a pole that still today comprises within it a Research Centre entirely dedicated to identifying new therapeutic solutions for curing rare diseases for which there is no cure and a Production Centre that develops drugs for the Primary care area. The university's biotechnology faculty is working with this company and the company can provide jobs to L'Aquila graduates. I will send pictures once I begin the tour.

Pictures at the university and in the labs including earthquake damaged facilities

Damaged buildings at the Biochemistry Department.

Nano Cat Lab (Physics). Efficient use of aluminum foil just like CAMD at LSU.

Spinoff Company Meeting

I met with Giovanni Cinque of the L'Aquila University spinoff company, HIMET/ELDES Weather Radar. The RADHYX is now called WR-10X and the research was co-sponsored by the EC. It has developed meteorology and environmental technologies and is a spin off of the University of L'Aquila's CETEMPS (Center for Excellence for Severe Weather Forecasting). They have some fasinating technology on integrated sounding systems. They have the ability to provide meteorological automated forecasting at high speed spatial resolution. This could have applications in hurricane and severe storm prediction in Louisiana. They also have a portable mini-radar system for real time monitoring of weather conditions. Other products include:Forecasts maps at different heights and spatial resolutions (temperature,
humidity, wind, geopotential height etc.)
Nowcasting maps of selected variables (visibility, precipitation, wind,turbulence intensity etc.)
Automatic scores evaluation (forecasts Vs measurements)
Actual weather maps and graphics derived from instrument network measurements
Automatically generated warning messages.
All of these were of interest and I will connect this group with our LSU faculty and researchers working on similar problems as well as the Stephenson Disaster Management Institute.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Schedule for June 9, 2010

As the five week visit to the University of L'Aquila comes to an end, I will be meeting tomorrow with Professor Anna Tozzi, Pro-rector for International Relations - University of L'Aquila. We will be discussing potential agreements and joint projects between LSU and University of L'Aquila. In addition, I will be meeting with Professor Lelio Lapadre of the College of Economics - International Trade Department to discuss the Soft Landing of possible spinoff incubator companies from Italy to Louisiana and in reverse. He is also setting up meetings with PhD students in international business and in Urban Planning from the University of Pescara. The Urban Planning student is interested in the reconstruction and redevelopment process in Louisiana after the hurricanes of 2005 and 2008. The afternoon will consist of a tour of one of the major biomedical firms operating in L'Aquila with Professor Rodolfo Ippoliti, vice dean of the faculty of Biotechnology. As my trip winds down, I will be departing for the USA on June 12. It has been a great experience where I have met great friends and talented collegues that I will continue to work with in the future and hopefully develop joint projects across the continent and universities.

Physics and Spinoffs at L'Aquila

June 8, 2010, meeting and workshop with the Professor of Physics, Dr. Michele Nardone. Professor Nardone visited Baton Rouge and attended my seminar that I held for the L'Aquila delegation in October of 2009. Today we visited and discussed projects and procedures at L'Aquila and in Italy for university research and spinoff companies. The University seems to encourage spinoff companies which is very good and there are a number of entrepreneurial faculty at the university. The department has 40 researchers and full professors and they are doing research in neutrono physics, solid state physics, Nano technologies, weather forecasting and climatology and solar physics. They have some faculty working with the scientists at Gran Sasso. They have a spinoff called Nano-Cat, Srl, Center for Advanced Nano-Technologies which has a lab for chemical analysis, a clean room, and is working on nano particle coatings. They were very interested in the work being done at LSU through our Center for Advanced Micro-structures and Devices (CAMD) as well as the LBTC graduate company, Mezzo Technologies. I sent them a presentation showing both Mezzo and CAP Technologies (coating technology). They would like to exchange more information so I will link them with our researchers and companies. Professor Luca Lozzi gave me a tour of their labs and the spinoff company. Another spinoff is in the area of meteorological and weather technology and analysis. They have found applications in weather reporting and forecasting, transportation and communications and supplied data during and after the 2009 earthquake. They have partnered with several European Companies and ELI of the USA.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pictures from L'Aquila Provincia

My favorite car in the Provincia. The seminar.

Provincia dell'Aquila

Disaster Managment Seminar for the Provincia di L'Aquila

Professor Margherita Mori of the College of Economics at L'Aquila set up a meeting with the Privincia di L'Aquila on Monday June 7, 2010. We met at the Privincia office and met General Manager, Dr. Giovanni Di Pangrazio and Paola Garozzo and had a brief discussion before we were hosted for lunch prior to the seminar. After lunch, we went by car to the Provincia Offices for the Seminar. It was attended by a dozen managers and program chiefs from all different disciplines that were working on the recovery process since the earthquake. They were very interested in the recovery efforts post Katrina and the other hurricanes and had great thought provoking questions that showed the seriousness of their situation. All disasters are alike and all are different as we could see from the Hurricanes, the Oil Spill and the Earthquake. All require similar actions in recovery and all require different actions at the same time. During the discussion, we tried to look at similarities as well as the uniqueness of each disaster. They expressed strong interest in preparedness. Obviously there were warnings for the hurricanes but none for the oil spill or the earthquake. I stressed that the city and region must have a preparedness plan that can make the area resiliant eventhough you cannot make it less vulneralbe to an earthquake of the magnitude that they experienced. They asked for copies of documents such as evacuation plans, resiliancy plans and other documents that we have utilized in the past. Since the last major quake to hit L'Aquila was 300 years ago, they have nothing developed that is useable in this instance. Also, I told them that my observations and interviews indicated that they have done a lot of things correctly. For example, they got the University up and running with minimal downtime to keep the population in L'Aquila and keep the student body in the area. They also began immediately building earthquake resistant housing for people and students that lost their houses and apartments. They also got the hospital up immediately and have begun a major restoration project in the historic area, central city, the heart of L'Aquila. Unfortunately, they have not communicated well with the citizens and the citizens are not happy with the speed of the recovery (which is normal). I related to them the experiences of New Orleans (Katrina), Lake Charles (Rita and Ike) and Baton Rouge (Gustav). In disasters of massive destruction and crippled infrastructure, it takes time and money to recover. Other differences is the public / private investment in recovery and the insurance issues of both countries. Those attending from the Provincia represented Agriculture, Urban Planning, Legal, Public Services and Economics / Finance. Professor Mori offered translations and insight to the group also. It was a productive meeting and it was suggested by the Provincia that LSU and L'Aquila work on a joint Disaster Management Conference. I indicated that we are working on a joint agreement and this is being discussed.

Pictures from Cinque Terre

View from the trail of Corniglia, Bay at Montarolo and Vernazza and Cliff at Riomaggiore

Sunday, June 6, 2010

June 7, 2010 Meetings with the Provincia di L'Aquila and Medical Faculty Seminars

On the weekend of June 5-6, I traveled to Cinque Terre. These beautiful five villages are located on the water and offer breathtaking views. To clear my mind and exercise my body, there are walking trails between each town in the mountains along the sea. The walk from the top town to the bottom is estimated to take a little over 4 hours, so we started our journey at 9 am on Saturday. The towns offered a break between the walks so you can visit the shops and refuel in the gelaterias and restaurants. In addition to the beautiful views,we did have several steep climbs up the 1,000's of steps up and down the trail. Only saw one snake, who I allowed to take his time in getting off the path before I continued. (I needed a break anyway). Here are some of the views.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

June 3 Seminar to the Faculty of Biology and BioTechnology at the University of L'Aquila

Today's second lecture was to the faculty Biotechnology in the Department of Biology. Many of their labs were damaged by the earthquake in 2009. They are rebuilding and re-equiping their labs in smaller but nice space in a building that had minimal structural damage. The faculty gave me a tour of their labs and we discussed projects and potential commercialization projects that they are working on. My seminar was titled: "The potential impact of biotechnology and biology in the creation of spin-off and start-up activities" with an introduction about "The University and its contribution to recovery in disaster area". The faculty and PhD students were very interested the role LSU played in both disaster recovery and disaster response. Again the oil spill has taken their interest as it is international news. I have been receiving updated information from my staff and the US / Louisiana media so that I have been able to update my presentations. Since this seminar was to the Biology faculty, their interest was on the long term impact of the spill on the food supply and health issues resulting from the spill.

June 2, Holiday in Italy

Arsoli castle and streets.

Since June 2 is a national holiday in Italy and the university was closed, I took the opportunity to visit some of the villages in the outlying areas of L'Aquila and see the destruction caused in the little villages and towns nearby and to experience a day in the Italian countryside. I visited several villages in the mountains between Rome and L'Aquila. These included Carsoli, Arsoli and several smaller villages. The view was beautiful and most of these villages had ancient castles on the top of the hill that was developed for protection. These are some of the photos taken.

June 3, Presentations to the Departments of Sciences

Pictured is LSU LBTC client, Floating Island Enviromental Solutions LLC's floating island technology that is being tested on assisting in cleaning up the oil spill before it reaches the Louisiana marsh. They have met with Dr. Ralph Portier of LSU on getting assistance with Microbes that can degrade oil.

This morning I met with Professor Maurizio Biondi, Direttore of Dipartimento di Scienze Ambientali and Zoology Professor. Professor Biondi was one of the faculty that visited the LBTC in Baton Rouge last September and organized my trip to L'Aquila. I gave a seminar entitled: “Disaster consequences on the environment: from Katrina to the Black Tide”
Presented to the Department of Environmental Sciences – University of L’Aquila. The seminar was attended by approximately 30 faculty and PhD students in the department studying enviromental science. I received a tour of the facility and labs and met with various faculty members prior and after the presentation. Professor Walter Rossi gave me a special tour of his labs and showed me publications that he co-authored with LSU professor Meredith Blackwell. He is very interested in the Fulbright program and would like to initiate a conversation to visit LSU and have Professor Blackwell visit L'Aquila. I gave my presentation focusing on the British Petroleum Oil Spill and the environmental impact that it will have on the Louisiana and the entire Gulf of Mexico. Although my presentation covered specific issues on Hurricane Katrina and the L'Aquila earthquake, their questions and interest was clearly on the current event, the Oil Spill in the Gulf. The seminar was for two hours with very good interaction between the group on issues that I presented. They also expressed their interest in knowing how long should they expect the recovery process to take in L'Aquila based on the New Orleans hurricane recovery period from 2005-2010.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

gran sasso pictures INFN June 1, 2010

The Gran Sasso National Laboratory

Professor Piero Tognolatti, Director of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of L'Aquila set up a tour of the Gran Sasso Lab today. We drove to the lab and met Dr. Adraino Di Giovanni of the LNGS who hosted our tour. We drove from the lab in the mountains to the tunnel that is the home of the lab. The tunnel between L'Aquila and Teramo is 10 km long and it there is a turn into the labs located 1,400 meters below the top of the mountain. The lab is about 120 km from Rome and is a worldwide structure used by scientists from 24 countries including several in the US. We saw experiments conducted by researchers from Princeton and Cal Tech. Currently, 750 scientists are working on 15 separate experiments. The structure consists of three large experimental halls, each 100 m long and 20 m wide and 18 m high. The location within the mountain keeps the labs at a temperature of about 6-10 C. By having the lab located in the mountain, at more than 1,400 meters of rock above the lab, it is able to reduce the flux of cosmic rays by a million times. Particle physics and nuclear physics are being conducted in the labs. WARP researchers are working on the external site of cryostate. Every day, several billions of muon neutrinos are artifically created at CERN in Geneva. Scientist seek to detect some which have changed charactistics along the way from CERN to Gran Sasso, transforming themselves into tau neutrinis. Due to the extremely small probability that neutrinos interact with matter, it is necessary to use huge experimental apparata containing materials capable of revealing the charactistics of neutrino interactions within. This was witnessed two day before our arrival for the first time in thirty years. The tour was fascinating and the equipment and labs extremely impressive. Pictures of the visit are in this blog.

June 1, the start of Hurricane Season in Louisiana

Today starts hurricane season in Louisiana and LBTC staff is working on the BP Oil Spill disaster. We have several LBTC client companies involved in technologies related to the clean up and LBTC counselors and the mobile classroom is being activated to assist businesses impacted by the spill in filling out SBA loan applications, in dealing with the business and monitary issues in the fisheries, tourism, oil field services and other industries located in the spill area. LSU researchers and LBTC client companies are involved in the environmental issues related to the spill. It is very fortunate for the people of L'Aquila that there is no earthquake season and that the major quakes have been at 100 to 300 year intervals.

Today, I travel with Professor Piero Tognolatti to meet Dr. Roberta Antolini at the Laboratorio Gran Sasso (LNGS). We will meet at the outdoor labs on the mountain then travel into the underground labs. I have been warned to wear warm clothing as the labs temperatures should be below 10 A C. I will post pictures on my return.

An interesting note to my blog. Jordan Freisleben, a senior at Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles has been following my blog. Jordan is a high school journalist and student of Italian language and literature. He was awarded a Presidential Fellowship and will be traveling to L'Aquila from June 14-18. Unfortunately, I depart to return to LSU on June 12. However, I will send Jordan a list of contacts at the university and have forwarded his email to Maria Grazia Quieti of the Fulbright Program in Rome and Anna Tozzi of the international office at the Universita degli Studi dell'Aquila. I will send him contact information for the faculty and governmental and business leaders that I have met so that they can meet and interact.

Yesterday after my seminar, I met with 5 faculty in one-on-one sessions to discuss both technology commercialization and disaster recovery roles for the university and faculty. Professor Stefania Costantini of the Department of Informatica brought two graduate students that are working on interesting technologies and are seeking funding to develop the projects for commercialization. Their area of specialty is artificial technologies. It is interesting to note that the commercial / industrial sector rarely supports university research in Italy. We will continue to discuss these projects and there is much interest for student and faculty exchanges.

The night ended with a fine meal at a local restaurant called Le Botte. It is our third visit and there are no menues and the owner and staff speak no English. After a round of charades, sign language and speaking slowly, we had a fabulous meal with most of what we thought we ordered.