Friday, January 14, 2011

My scientific history in brief

I took a while to understand what I would have liked to do.
When I graduate in Physics on supersimmetries, I knew just one thing: I wanted to change subject. Reasons were many. Among them I felt myself the criticism that is nowadays present in a minority of Physicists (see Lee Smolin's  comment)  who claim that possibly Strings are not the way to obtain the Grand Unified Theory.

After the military service, I had the occasion to gain a grant in Venice, to work with Sandro Marani, a man of unsurpassed visionariness, where I quietly I approached hydrology, by studying river networks  and the way messages (the flood) propagate inside them.
Eventually we produced a paper on the fractal structure of river networks, and, I believe, an interesting contribution on understanding the shape of the hydrograph as formed by the (fractal) geomorphology of the network.

After a few years of wandering I had the occasion to pursue a doctoral degree in hydrodynamics. I worked under the supervision of Andrea Rinaldo, and in strict contact with Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe. The main goal was to show the dynamics behind fractals (at least in the case of river networks, and basin's landscapes). Why there were such similarities in the structure of the networks, despite the different geology, and climate conditions ? What was the rational of Horton's laws ? We ended with the Optimal channel networks theory, with some invasion in the terrain of the Self Organizing Criticality. All of this appeared in the book by Ignacio and Andrea: Fractal river networks: chance and self-organization.

Further work, mainly by Andrea Rinaldo, Amos Maritan e Jaynath Banavar has also shown that the topological structures of river networks has parallel in living beings, and possibly a trade-off by minimal energy dissipation and maximization of entropy is governing the network structures.

Collaboration of the first years, include Texas A&M, MIT, and Princeton University.
In late nineties, already assistant professor in Trento (BTW a tenured position), and having spent a couple of years in College Station, Texas, at TAMU, I did not succeeded in getting the Italian equivalent of associate professorship I finally decided to stick with Trento, and directed my work toward which are my main research activities now.

I started to write my notes on hydrology, that I will try to complete in a book sometimes (not yet assembled at the end of 2014), I started the GEOtop project, and, taking the opportunity offered by the Cofinlab 2001 that funded CUDAM, I began the adventure of JGrass.

What pushed me was:

- learning about the "rest of hydrology" that was closely unknown to me;
- learning by doing;
- believing that the best knowledge about hydrology could be captured in numerical models, and through models communicated to people, who could learn by doing and virtual experiments .
- arriving to have tools where the interactions between processes could be studied in their non-linearity;
- having models ready to be coupled with distributed data like those produced by remote sensing.

Well it took a while to arrive to a decent level in all of this.

Eventually, after some financial support by the Basin Authority of River Adige, I also started the JGrass-NewAGE project. In recent years I started a fruitful collaboration with Olaf David of CSU and ARS in Fort Collins, which I visited in summer 2014. I also collaborate on permafrost and snow studies with Stephan Gruber, of Carleton University.

My complete CV can be found here; my past research here; my future foreseen steps here.

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