Professor's portrait: Francesco Flammini
Francesco Flammini, Professor, School of Innovation, Design and Engineering, Division of Product Realisation.
Please tell us briefly about your academic career – what decisions have brought you to where you are today?
Most of my career as an engineer and researcher has been in industry. My full time academic career started in 2017, but I have been an adjunct professor of computer science, software engineering and cyber-physical security at several universities while working in industry. My choice to become a full time academic derived from my personal attitude and my need to always explore new areas, solve challenging problems, generate new ideas and innovative solutions. A passion for teaching diverse audiences and towards education at different levels completes my profile.
In what area do you conduct research?
My primary and most current area of research is model-based trustworthiness evaluation of autonomous cyber-physical systems. There are several grand challenges associated to trustworthy artificial intelligence and safe autonomy. I started doing research in modeling and verification of embedded real-time systems during my PhD, then moved towards addressing the cyber-physical security challenges, and finally arrived where I am now, trying to solve real-world issues related to growing complexity and criticality of modern intelligent systems.
How would you describe your research environment at MDU?
MDU is one of the best places to develop one's research, due to the freedom of choosing own areas and collaborators, no pressures from the management, and a unique ecosystem of reputable multinational companies willing to cooperate with MDU after their successful experience in previous projects. I explored a lot of diverse research environments, but the one at MDU is the one I would suggest to both early stage researchers to develop their academic career, and more experienced professors to consolidate their leadership positions in their field.
What is the driving force in your research?
As many researchers, I am guided by curiosity and motivated by challenges. I am also focused on real-world technology development, engineering applications and case-studies, which I consider essential to keep my motivation.
Which research domains are particularly important for you?
Dependable computing, critical infrastructure protection and homeland security are the general areas of research I have explored in the last 20 years, but most of the case-studies I have addressed belong to the field of intelligent transportation and smart-railways. More recently, I focused on Industry 4.0 and smart-factories.
How do you feel about becoming a Professor given that MDU has recently become an official University?
Becoming a professor at MDU nowadays means being able to develop your research group and leadership by counting on great support and adequate resources granted from the management, and I believe this is a strong motivation for new professors to join MDU.
What's the best part about conducting research at MDU?
As I said, there is a lot of freedom and respect for people and diversity. In our job, that is essential to keep high motivation and achieve excellent results. Also, people at MDU are great, they have diverse backgrounds and international experiences, including many coming from other countries and from industry, and they are generally very nice and cooperative. Finally, a unique advantage of working at MDU is represented by the large network of industrial contacts, with a lot of local companies of all sizes willing to cooperate with MDU due to successful experiences in previous projects. Together with the other positive aspects I mentioned before, I believe MDU is really one of the best places and most attractive environments to develop top notch research in engineering and technology.