NoMADS goes Genova
Last year I left my home institution, the University of Münster, within the scope of a NoMADS secondment for a five months stay in Genova. Teaming up with the genovese university partner Lorenzo Rosasco and his group I had the great chance to collaborate with the local industrial partner CAMELOT, who is working on software solutions for biomedical applications using techniques from Imaging and Machine Learning. Here I want to share some of my experiences:
After agreeing with all involved entities on the exact period of my secondment and concluding the health insurance for abroad, last year in April I suddenly found myself on a plane to Italy. Since it had turned out to be quite difficult to find an appartment from distance, I had decided to book a room via AirBnB for my first week, being optimistic that my search would be more successful onsite. Indeed, arrived in Genova, the sifting through online housing ads resulted fairly quick in the appointment for my first flat inspection which, due to the very friendly flat mates, the convenient location and the helpful landlord, also should have been my last.
In the meanwhile, I also got to know my collegues for the next five months who welcomed me with a proper Italian coffee on a terrace with a view on the Mediterranean Sea. That was how I had imagined Italy! Translating my rental contract and overcoming the constant demand on my "codice fiscale" they helped me even more to be well received. And that was exactly what I was. Even though I initially had some linguistic difficulties when entering the non-academic world (once I left a bakery after asking for "focaccia" for three persons with an amount to feed a starving football team) Italy felt like home really quick.
From there on time flew while I was working on the transfer of ideas used for discrete graph based variational methods to a continuous setting. Designing a continuous approach for the estimation of locally adaptive functions using the properties of reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces I could especially benefit from my collegue’s vast know-how on Machine Learning which I complemented with my background in Imaging. What helped me even more was the great chanceto attend a summer school on regularization methods in Machine Learning held at the University of Genova.
Apart from their keen professional advice my collegues also never were tired to make sure I was enjoying "la dolce vita". This basically meant to guide me to various nice places to relish the excellent ligurian cuisine. Regardless of whether we had some "focaccia al formaggio" for lunch, an "aperitivo" in the late afternoon or some green gold (aka pesto) in the evening – they could always convince me that italian food is the best (#paidadvertisement).
Eventually, as you probably already could guess, I can say that the secondment was definitely the right decision for me. Leaving my comfort zone gave me the unique possibility to gain insights in other disciplines and opened up new perspectives on my own specialization. Beyond that I left Genova not only with an ongoing collaboration but also with some new friends such that in the end, the only thing left to say is: