College pledges cooperation with Italian university

A newly signed memorandum of understanding between the Penn State's College of Engineering and Italy's Politecnico di Milano paves the way for formal teaching and research collaborations between the two institutions.

Patrick Reed, associate professor of civil engineering, spearheaded the effort after giving a presentation at the 2010 International Congress on Environmental Modeling and Software in Ottawa, Canada. After his presentation Reed was approached by Andrea Castelletti, assistant professor of management of natural resources at Politecnico, leading to their initial discussions on mutual interests and the complementary research at both institutions.

Reed's research focuses on helping water managers understand the tradeoffs in their systems while Castelletti's work is concerned with improving reservoir operations in Alpine lakes as well other lake systems in Australia.

"It was immediately clear we had similar interests," Reed said, noting that Politecnico is Italy's largest engineering-focused university. "Their group has been very active in water resources management. We have very complementary efforts going on at Penn State."

The discussions continued over the next few months and eventually culminated in the memorandum.

"This sets the stage for building a bridge between institutions," Reed stated, adding that Penn State faculty have been working informally with people from Politecnico in recent years.

Francesco Costanzo, professor of engineering science and mechanics and mathematics at Penn State, received his undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering from Politecnico di Milano and has collaborated with faculty members there.

Costanzo worked with Stefano Mariani, assistant professor of structural engineering at Politecnico, on a project focusing on damage and fracture mechanics in 2007. He also was invited to give a presentation to the university's mathematics department at the end of May.

Reed hopes the memorandum will encourage more Penn State faculty to consider teaming up with Politecnico faculty.

He said he wants to pursue funding from the National Science Foundation for developing an international workshop with Politecnico or other initiatives in the European Union. Reed also discussed the possibility of exchanging faculty and students to work on collaborative projects in water management and computational methods.

"There's a potential for lots of people to interact," he said.

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Last Updated July 11, 2011