All posts by enricomigrante

About enricomigrante

Migrant Researcher, currently in Singapore after living in USA, Ireland and The Netherlands

Couple of things on innovation

Many researchers have already analysed and discussed why creatinve and hi-tech districts exist and prosper. This is actually such a trivial topic that even mainstream newspaper host column about innovation and technology. Due to the cases of life, I am working now at the margin of one of these districts.

From the perspective of the creative people, the engine of this district:

  1. Easy access to service, finance, hi-tech products, large market
  2. Comfortable life
  3. Continuous exchange of information with peers
  4. A dynamic university, where the right talent is next door.

From the perspective of the organizer of the district

  1. Easy migration for qualified personnel
  2. Creation of advanced logistic and services
  3. Serious amount of investment
  4. Continuous and structured organization of events about innovation and entrepreneurship
  5. Highly paid and respected teachers (from primary school to University)

Nothing new, I am just putting order in my thoughts. This is not a difficult recipe, but it is impossible where corruption and a family-based industry block innovation. People do not fight anymore to change the system, simply take a short flight to a better district where they can develop their ideas.



There is much more to sense there than we can even think of. Although we have super-dupertechnology for chemical analysis, practitioner and the market are literally hungry of biosensors. They should be portable, easy to use, universal, sensitive, and selective, and cheap, really cheap. This is impossible, of course. So we proceed for small approximations, covering a small use case after the other. However, very few of these products reach the market. Why? What are the three most important things to do (IMHO) to design a good sensor that might reach the market in reasonable time?

  1. Collaborate from the beginning with the practitioner. They know their business and they know exactly what they want, so they can help us getting rid of old/uproductive idea and focus on really applicable concepts.
  2. It is OK to work on a focused use case and understanding from the very beginning the limitation of our design. The concept on which our biosensor is based can be really novel, but the application should be boringly effective in a specific scenario.
  3. Be selective. No one needs a baely working biosensor. Focus only on those applications that show immediately good promises.


Party of knowledge

The only party I would like to found, had I time and money for this gigantic work, is the party of knowledge, thought and logic.

It is the only party that will not accept most of the wars, because a war is not an optimal collaborative strategy, and it consumes more resources than those that produces.

It is the only party that will not accept religion, obviously. Better, it will accept religion only for the elders and those that are retired, whose influence on the others and on the public things is little.

It is the only party when you renew your membership through an exam. Old members will challenge new members by designing a logic test. More knowledgeable members will take the place of tired and less knowledgeable one.

It is the party where discussion are short, logical, and interesting. No ideology, but sound concepts. No propaganda, but facts and numbers.

Knowledge is worth working hard for, fills your mind and body, makes you a full human.

And sharing feelings with a smart partner is probably the most beautiful thing in the Universe.

Cost-benefit, again

I know that the cost/benefit dynamic in a relationship, which some calls giving/receiving dynamics, is not a new concept. So, I am not surprised to find papers that describe in mathematical terms a relation and the underlying second law of marry-dynamics ( open access)

What I am interested to talk about are the perturbation to this simple optimization. As such, a perturbation will bring far from the optimal conditions. How far, it depends from the magnitude of the perturbation. Is this sufficient to reach a new optimal state (maybe, a divorce)? It depends on the surrounding of the initial optimal conditions. Resistance to perturbation, in a real system, ensure that the relationship remains solid. I think we can classify the resistance under two categories:

1) Tolerance
2) Expectation

Tolerance allows to resist perturbation, by extending the surrounding of the initial optimal conditions. Say, your partner become violent. You can buffer the violence to some extent, then you give up and move to another state of relationship

Expectation means that, even if the perturbation is very ample and potentially destructive, you resist as you know that this state of things is only temporary.

In both cases, the resistance to perturbation requires a limit, otherwise the person enduring the perturbation (assuming that the other is causing it) will eventually destroy the partner.
The resistance to perturbation is therefore a very human act, an attempt to solve problems, a (less positive) will to maintain a status quo. It is important to perceive and define the limit, and also the motivation that bring us to move the limit away from our safety, in a dangerous zone of abuse and violence.

the gain for a better understanding of the limit and its motivations is immense: you got your life back and recover full use of your brain.

Split family

My kids are away since few months, as their mother brought them away without my consensus. This is the final result of a toxic relationship, where I was not able to see the violence, the lies, and the damage that my abusive partner was putting in the relationship. Since I have not seen the kids in six months, I feel that my memories of them are brutally interrupted at that time. All the songs, all the games, all the images I have in mind refer to a time that is gone, cause the kids grow fast. I know I will hug them soon, though, and this great expectation keeps me going.


While waiting the usual 8+ hours in Doha airport on my way to Singapore, I have time to write, enjoy people watching and think.

A well-known economy principle says that we do something only if the benefit of doing so (changing) is higher than the related cost. Nothing new here, but it is surprising how this principle is well-known to kids, adult and community. Chemically speaking, it can be described in terms of kinetic and activation potential. Understanding this principle leas to better decisions. Think about it next time you enjoy a meal or do nearly any action. Exceptions? The application to community require an average or some sort of weighing, to account for the needs of different people and classes. The problem is, as usual, who decides the weighing method…

Despite a long life experience, I am still surprised how simple is to take advantage of the rules that govern a community. There are elements that, like parasites, understand enough these rules to twist them to their advantage. Learning how to isolate and possibly punish these perturbative elements should be one of the most important function of any given society.

Interesting discussion with a couple of retired teachers about teaching techniques, particularly how to retain information and to provide multilevel lectures to students. I will apply these ideas next week, as I will start my teaching in Asia!

Brief notes on a lazy saturday

Many things happened in this intense week. Just today, I was requested to collaborate with a researcher that deals with regulated substances. However, very little information is available and the feeling of being attracted in the under-wood is strong.  That makes me thinking on a more general level. We all know that part of the research inn the University is a dead end, and many researchers keep doing it for faith and habit, not because they really think that it will be fruitful. So, the difference between a dubious start-up and a questionable research  group is only the University and its credibility. As researchers, we should be careful not to waste  this patrimony  of credibility.

Communication is a priority in relationships, even those that are over. The process is dynamic and never simple. One should carefully balance rationality  and emotions, keeping a door open while remaining firm on the principle. Next time you are looking for a conflict-resolution person, ask to a divorced man or woman!

There are great research institutions in your  geographical backyard, if you only search for them. Maybe they are not extremely competitive as they  are embedded in a weak industrial and marketing fabric, but they exist nonetheless. Look around and keep a positive attitude.

Thanks to the many friends that listened to my words, help me with my problems or simply mantain a solid  presence in my life. I am in debt with you and you can count always on me.

In 2015, talk to your advisor!

I speak with many grad students and postdoc every year, both in informal context (coffee break) and formal occasions  (mentoring sessions at conferences). Not surprisingly, most of them do not speak to their advisors/supervisors. Keeping everything in does not help doing good science, and definitely does not improve one’s happiness   at work.

30 years old people with  a PhD are capable of running complex experiments, but not ready to  talk. We do not get trained in conflict resolution and interactions with colleagues. Suddenly, someone breaks and disappear, or leaves angrily to a new job.

Join this effort in improving academic communication in 2015. Invite your busy advisor/supervisor for a coffee, luring him/her with the perspective of a high IF publication! If your advisor is Prof. Smith, do this ONLY after securing another job!

There is something in everything

Most of our lifetime  is spent  in repetitive, routine activity. Yet interesting. In fact, even the most menial task might teach us something, if seen with a sciency eye. Washing dishes stimulates interesting thoughts on movement, fluid dynamic and surface chemistry. While walking, we can select a channel (i.e., only vision or low-pitch noise) to explore part of the spectrum we do not often think of. Being in a crowd or a noisy environment forces  us to perceive the difference between the single object/person and  the crowd itself.

What is the goal of this exercises? Maximize the objective function with respect to happiness, while stimulating active cognitive process in our mind and body. I am going for a walk 🙂