Stories#093 Alberto’s maintaining quality

#093 Alberto’s maintaining quality

The story of Inge’s treasure delving is a story of Alberto’s maintaining quality

Inge Broekman consciously chose a role outside the primary process at UT, because she wanted her horizon and range of tasks to be as broad as possible. With plenty of variety and freedom to occasionally search for a hidden treasure – both in her work and private life. Alberto Martinetti does work on education and research with an equal passion for both. He broadened his horizons by slowly moving from the discipline in which he graduated to another area of expertise. And by diving into Humanitarian Engineering. ‘I truly believe that education is one of the most important building blocks of society.’

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Monday 24 october 2022 

Educational gold mine

Alberto: ‘It’s been a long time, Inge!’

Inge: ‘Yes, it has. How have you been doing?’

Alberto: ‘Well, thank you.’

Inge: ‘You know, I’ve been wanting to interview you since the start of this series. In the end, I had to compromise. First I had to talk about myself for an hour – which I find very difficult. Only then was I allowed to ask you questions.’

Alberto: ‘I was wondering if I would have enough interesting things to say myself, so I see what you mean.’

Inge: ‘I’m sure you do! You went from mining to maintenance engineering. How did that go?’

Alberto: ‘I studied mining engineering, but my PhD was on occupational safety, on how to ensure the safety of miners and the reliability of the system. This already touches upon maintenance. When I saw a job opening in UT’s Maintenance Engineering group, I applied, and here I am.’

“Very few products, assets or systems can be designed in such a way that they do not require any maintenance”
Alberto Martinetti

‘You know, maintenance is everywhere. We can’t get rid of it, even if we wanted to. Very few products, assets or systems can be designed in such a way that it does not require any maintenance.’

Inge: ‘How does that relate to our throwaway society?’

Alberto: ‘Good question! We encourage our students to reflect on how we can extend the useful life of a product. By designing it in such a way that it lasts longer and can easily be maintained. The Fairphone is a good example. A modular phone that you don’t throw away after two or three years, but that you can upgrade by replacing its modules. This is a real change in our mindset that moves away from disposables.’

Inge: ‘When we first met, we talked about very different things. We got in touch because you wanted to work on educational projects through Erasmus+, right?’

Alberto: ‘Yes, indeed.’

Inge: ‘I read that you are still very much involved in this type of projects. To me, you also seem to be a motivated researcher. It makes me wonder, how do you see the connection between education and research? And which are you most passionate about?’

Alberto: ‘Hmm, I guess I am equally passionate about the two. Both are important to me. But, when you look up ‘university’ in the Cambridge dictionary, it first mentions education, not research. I see it as my main obligation to provide good education. Being an inspiring lecturer is very difficult. I would like to be known as one, but I’m not sure if I am yet.’

Inge: ‘Well, ask your students.’

Alberto: ‘Or not, and treasure the idea that I might one day be an inspiring lecturer. I remember some of my professors who really challenged me, intellectually. I am doing the best I can to get there too. I try to continuously improve my educational skills and to be on top of things. In twenty years, I’m not planning on using the same slides I use today.’

“In twenty years, I’m not planning on using the same slides I use today”
Alberto Martinett

‘Very good researchers aren’t always the best teachers. Inversely, there are very good teachers who are required to do scientific research, even though they clearly don’t like it. This causes tension, stress, and disappointment. And unhappy students. Allowing people to do what they prefer doing, is a nice idea.’

Inge: ‘This relates to the debate on recognition and rewards that is going on in academia in the Netherlands.’

Alberto: ‘Indeed. Of course academic output can remain one aspect of the evaluation of academics. Our bibliometrics index is just one of the rules of the game. As is education. And there’s more. We should also look at our societal impact.’

Inge: ‘Is this why you have one of the Sustainable Development Goals as your background image on your LinkedIn profile page?’

Alberto: ‘Yes, the goal of ‘Quality Education’ is important to me. We should provide quality education to future generations. I think UT is doing a great job in that regard, by the way. But there are many people who don’t get the opportunities we get here. Through initiatives like the EDUbox, I would like to provide education to marginalised and underserved communities. I truly believe education is one of the most important building blocks of society.’

Inge: ‘EDUbox?’

Alberto: ‘Yes, a flexible, self-contained, off-grid and modular learning environment that is part of our humanitarian engineering action. You can easily move it around and provide education – both higher and vocational – anywhere you want. Initially, it was tailored for bringing education facilities to refugees. The main objective of EDUbox is to provide access to education to people who otherwise would not have access to it.’

“EDUbox is aimed at providing access to education to people who otherwise would not have access to it”
Alberto Martinett

‘Together with students, we developed a concept design. Currently, we are prototyping here at the UT campus. The next stop is a presentation at the Dutch Design Week, before we move the installation to Yarmouk University, in Jordan, where we will start the testing phase. Yarmouk University is close to a refugee camp. The people living there will have access to training and education through EDUbox.’

Inge: ‘And if the test is successful, you will make more of them?’

Alberto: ‘Yes, that’s the plan. Not only for use in developing countries, by the way. There are marginalised and underprivileged communities in Europe as well. If I look at my own country, Italy, I can easily point out a number of locations where EDUbox could make a real impact.’

Inge: ‘I wish you all the best with your mission. You see, you have plenty of interesting things to tell. I knew it was a good idea to interview you. Thank you very much.’

Alberto: ‘Thanks to you too!’

Dr. Inge Broekman (1981)

has been working at UT for thirteen years. She studied Dutch and Dutch Golden Age Studies. After graduating, she wrote a dissertation on the role of painting in the life of Constantijn Huygens. She then held various positions at UT. She worked as Institutional Erasmus Coordinator at the International Office, Coordinator Internationalisation at the Center for Educational Support and was active nationally as a Bologna Expert. She has now been Advisor Policy & Analytics for two years. She deals with various strategy and policy topics and is co-responsible for the UT Annual Report.

Dr. Alberto Martinetti (1985)

studied Mining Engineering at the Politecnico of Torino. He obtained his PhD in Occupational Safety and Health from the same university. After his doctoral research, Alberto had several jobs outside academia. He worked as Assistant Inspector at the Local Mining Inspectorates Authority of Turin Province and as Safety Engineer in a consultancy company. He then returned to academia. First as a research fellow at Politecnico di Torino. Later he joined UT’s Maintenance Engineering department as an Assistant Professor, and now as an Associate Professor. In his research, he focuses more and more on creating impact for society and for underserved communities through Humanitarian Engineering actions.