I consider myself a romantic scientist. I do science primarily because I believe that understanding the laws of nature and generating new knowledge are the purest forms of realisation of the human intellect.
I love the thrill I get when a new idea sparks my mind, I solve a crystal structure or I engage in a scientific discussion. This is the main drive that has kept me pursuing an academic career, ever since I started doing research during my Masters.
Besides loving fundamental science, I also recognise that scientists have a social role and should always work with the purpose of improving people's lives and solving global problems. The issues I try to address with my research, which belong to the broad area of energy and environment, are important to me as an individual citizen, even before than as a scientist.
I firmly believe that science needs openness and free sharing of ideas to progress. I enthusiastically support ChemRxivTM, the online repository for chemistry preprints.
As a kid, I never dreamed of being a chemist. At some point, I wanted to be a nuclear engineer, just because, to me, it appeared as the most challenging thing to study. As every good stubborn person out there, I have always loved challenges, especially with myself.
My first encounter with chemistry dates back to my fourth year in high school. That year ended with excellent marks in chemistry, but didn't really mark a turning point. The fifth year didn't include any chemistry, contributing to keep us apart.
As high school was over, I had to decide where to go next. By that time, I had given up the idea of becoming an engineer: there was a lot of maths and I was a bit sick of it, despite it had always been my workhorse. Chemistry made it into a shortlist of other scientific matters, but there was not one that stood out. At some point, I decided to call my science teacher to ask for advice. She told me that chemistry was the most challenging in the list, but I had the means to succeed. That was enough, I had a new challenge for the next five years.
When I told my parents about my choice, my mum told me that I was not the type of person to work in a lab, I had no patience for such things (which is not completely wrong, patience has never been my specialty). Another challenge to take on and demonstrate her that she was wrong.
After the first week of classes, I realized that my previous knowledge of chemistry had already been covered. I struggled during the first year, but eventually managed to pass all the exams. Things got better in the following years and I progressively fell in love with chemistry.
Over the course of my years as an undergrad, I had started giving private lessons, finding out that I loved to teach, and I had worked one year in the lab for my Master thesis, finding out that I loved the challenges associated with research. By the time I got my Master’s degree, I was 100% sure that chemistry was the only thing I could have ever studied in my life and that I wanted to be an academic.
My love for chemistry has taken me away from Italy to live and work in USA, Switzerland and Wales, chasing the dream of being a chemistry professor someday. In 2020, I came back to Italy to take up a faculty position at the University of Pisa, closing the circle.
I was born in 1983 in Umbertide, nearby Perugia, in the Italian central region of Umbria. My family has been living for generations in Lama, a small village of 2500 people located close to Toscana and Marche. I feel profoundly bound to my hometown, my lifelong friends and the surrounding countryside.
I am married to Carla, whom I met in Switzerland. She is an architect, therefore I seldom talk about science when I am home, which greatly contributes to keep a healthy work-life balance. This does not prevent her from providing precious early feedback about the clarity and accessibility of my scientific talks. As a result, she now knows lots about MOFs. We have two sons: Riccardo Nicola (born 2016), an energetic little punk with a temper and a bright future as an entertainer, and Alessandro David (born 2018), who is already mocking his brother's performances and stealing the stage. I value the time I spend with my family and I limit as much as possible working long hours and working on weekends.
My greatest passion (even before science) is music. It all started in 1997, when I fell in love with The Verve and their "Urban Hymns" album. Shortly thereafter, I started playing guitar, which greatly contributed to expand my musical horizons. When I was younger, I used to listen to a lot of hard rock, heavy metal and progressive rock. Growing up (or getting older?), I moved more in the direction of blues, folk and singer/songwriters, Over the years, I have attended dozens of live concerts and festivals, enjoying the performances of a number of international artists. In 2012, together with a good friend, we traveled to the US for an on-the-road musical pilgrimage from New Orleans to Chicago, with stops in the Mississippi Delta, Memphis, Nashville and St Louis. I have been playing guitar in several bands, covering a range of styles including hard rock, punk/rock, blues, acoustic folk, Irish folk. I own one acoustic guitar, four electric guitars and one ukulele, but lately I hardly have time to play even just one of them.
My favourite sports to practice are mountain biking, basketball and snowboarding. My favourite sport to watch is basketball. During my three years in Wales, I did not have the chance to practice much any of these sports, but I am planning on regularly using the beautiful mountains around Pisa for some nice rides on my bike. Luckily, having commuted for almost 9000 km by bike in Wales, I have kept myself fit enough. I have played in my hometown football team for many years when I was younger, but I quit when I started University.
I love to cook dishes of the Italian tradition and I like to invest considerable amounts of time to prepare food. I am not a patient person, but I am happy to use some extra patience if the reward is a good meal. I tend to be quite intransigent when it comes to food: no pineapple on pizza, no cream in carbonara, no pasta as a side dish. My wife and I often fantasise about opening a restaurant someday.