The Department of Physics (DF) celebrated its 40th anniversary this Wednesday, December 16. Using digital platforms, the celebrations brought together professors, researchers, alumni and current students. Also potential future students, from secondary schools, joined one of the commemorative events: Professor Reinhard Genzel’s lecture.
The continuous growth of the department, the leadership in scientific and educational programmes, the fulfillment of DF’s mission: to bring scientific culture closer to society, the generations of engineers and scientists, were topics addressed during the ceremony.
The President of Técnico, professor Rogério Colaço, congratulated and thanked the DF members for their contribution and commitment. “Physics teaching was considered to be of great importance in engineering training since the beginning of Técnico”, said professor Rogério Colaço, who also highlighted “the important role of the DF in creating and monitoring the Physics Engineering course, which has been increasingly attracting Portuguese top talent”. “Thanks to you, to your commitment and expertise, we will continue to attract the best students”, he added.
On such a special occasion like this, the president of Técnico mentioned professor Mariano Gago in his speech. “Besides being an illustrious professor at our School, he was an illustrious professor of Physics and he has unquestionably left a mark on Science and on scientific and technological development”. Professor Rogério Colaço also praised “the many notable people who have developed remarkable scientific work and teaching policies at the DF”.
The president of the Scientific Council (CC), professor Luís Oliveira e Silva, highlighted the important role of DF’s faculty members and mentioned professors Jorge Dias de Deus, Carlos Matos ferreira and José Mariano Gago. “These three professors understood that the role of university professors as academic leaders and as intellectuals must expand beyond their offices. They also understood that a university professor has the freedom and the responsibility to think and to do things differently; to do the best for the benefit of our school and our society. They left an important legacy: social, political and scientific, and it’s up to us to maintain and enhance this legacy”.
Members of previous executive commissions and alumni recalled the disruptive vision of the first four presidents: professors Manuel Alves Marques, Carlos Matos Ferreira, Jorge Dias Deus and Mariano Gago. “The Department of Physics is extraordinary. I always felt very supported and I was given all the conditions to develop my scientific activities and to teach my favourite subjects”, said professor José Sande Lemos.
A commemorative video of the last 40 years was shown during the ceremony. The president of the DF, professor Teresa Peña, stressed “the evolution of this department has gone hand in hand with the international context. Regardless of the changes that will certainly arise, the DF will not stop evolving. It will remain brilliant, inclusive and we will continue to work for a brighter future”.
Professor Teresa Peña left her best wishes for DF’s next executive committee, which will be led by professor Vítor Cardoso.
“I would like to thank all those who have been part of this department. I didn’t know many of the stories I heard here today, and I think this is something that we need: memories”, said professor Vítor Cardoso. “The DF and its faculty members encouraged me to continue my studies and to broaden my horizons”, he added. “Técnico is a unique place to carry out fundamental research, and the reason is very simple: the students are extraordinary, we have very good students”.
Alumni share their inspirations and lessons learned
The president of the Scientific Council, he too an alumnus, led the panel that brought together several alumni.
Francisco Veloso, Dean at Imperial College Business School, highlighted “the excellent learning experience based on great knowledge and demand, but also the awakening of intellectual curiosity” that he experienced as a Técnico student.
Francisca Leite, Director General at Hospital da Luz Learning Health explained how she ended up building a career in the health sector and how Physics Engineering course has been a major ‘cornerstone’ for her career development.
Getting into “a top elite university” and “being part of a department such as the DF, which promotes academic rigor and academic excellence” encouraged the alumna “to continue learning and always to look for big challenges”.
The alumni Pedro Conceição, UN’s Director of the Human Development Report Office, Luís Bettencourt, Director of the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation da University of Chicago, Susana Freitas, DF professor and researcher at INESC-MN, Nuno Loureiro, professor and researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Samuel Martins, Director of Business Development and Strategy at Microsoft, Filomena Nunes, professor and researcher at Michigan State University, also participated in the ceremony.
The desire to “build, develop and explore” that inspires the students, “the passionate teaching”, “the Physics breakthroughs”, “the mutual support” and “the desire to continue learning and solving problems”, were some of the feelings shared by the alumni.
NFIST and the recognition of academic excellence are also part of DF history
“We have people from different backgrounds in our department, who got their PhDs in many different countries”, said professor Ilídio Lopes, who moderated the session that brought together current students.
The student Íris Brée, president of NFIST, presented the work and activities of the student group through a video. The student highlighted the close collaboration between NFIST and the DF. “We all share the same passion: learning and helping others to learn”.
The winners of MEFT Academic Excellence Awards were announced during the ceremony. The two honourable mentions were given to students Raul Monteiro (2nd) and Afonso Rufino (1st). The student Martim Simões was the award winner of past academic year.
A future with “more and better Physics”
“Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Department of Physics should make us very proud”, said the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, professor Manuel Heitor, in a video message. “In 1980, when DF was created, the number of new doctorates per year was less than 100. Today, the number exceeds 2500. This department has played a pivotal role in this regard. Today, physics engineers work in the most diverse public and private institutions, at national and international level”.
According to professor Manuel Heitor “we would not be able to survive without interdisciplinarity, without more and better Physics in all areas of life sciences, namely engineering, but also human and social sciences”. “All Técnico professors who, over the years, brought Physics closer to society, made us realise the importance of Physics in human development”.
During the afternoon the ceremony included a lecture by professor Reinhard Genzel, one of the Nobel Laureates in Physics 2020.