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Francesco Gonella
Experimental Physics

What do you teach at Ca’ Foscari? What are your main research interests?
I started out as a matter physicist, but in the last ten years or so I have been working in a field in which Physics is only important as a mental training, namely System Thinking. Today, more than ever, system thinking is essential in everything that has to do with understanding and managing complex situations. My work is especially useful in all issues related to integrated sustainability, e.g. related to ecosystems, production systems, social systems such as healthcare or education. Recently, I have formed a small multidisciplinary group that applies system thinking also in the biomedical field, especially for investigating some incurable forms of cancer.

What are your professional references?
System thinking has developed from that of great figures of the past, such as Leibniz, Bertrand Russell and Einstein himself, and then gained scientific and analytical status thanks to the work of thinkers such as Jay Forrester of MIT and the group of scholars who produced the famous “The Limits to Growth” in the 1970s. If I have to name a name, my personal reference is Howard T. Odum, whose work opened the new millennium with such a new perspective that I am sure it will only be fully appreciated in the future.

What has given you the greatest satisfaction in your career?
They are also the most recent ones, and they come from the results of my system research. Several universities (e.g. the University of Turin and the Normale University in Beijing) ask me to teach courses and contribute to their research in sustainability. Recently, CERN invited me to Geneva to teach a small course on system thinking, and for me this is like coming full circle, as I will have the opportunity to bring back into physics what I have learned in a different field.

Last update: 22/06/2022