It is with great sadness that we report the death of Massimo Grattarola, professor of Electronic Bioengineering for the Biomedical Engineering Degree at the University of Genova, Italy.
e dei remi facemmo ali al folle volo
[ "La Divina Commedia", Inferno, XXVI, 125]
deceased on February 15th 2002, after a brief struggle with a merciless disease
faced with great courage and dignity.
His biography witnesses his devotion to science and his excellent scientific production.
He was a bright minded scientist with great intuitions and visionary ideas. He has always been at the cutting edge of his research field introducing first, in Italy, the concept of Bioelectronics. He was the only one, in Italy, to have a chair in Bioelectronics for the Biomedical Engineering degree. With his book: "Bioelectronics Handbook: MOSFETs, Biosensors and Neurons", edited in 1998 by Mc-Graw Hill, he contributed to the foundation of a new discipline, by mixing scientific languages (jargons) from different disciplines, in order to introduce physicists and engineers into neurophysiology and neuroscience and, on the contrary, physiologists and biologists into engineering and other technological oriented studies.
Very recently he devoted his efforts and attention to the Neuroengineering field, again proposing new initiatives both at local and international level as a recently started joint research project and as a proposal of an International Research Center on Neuroengineering in Genova. In September 2001, he successfully submitted as project leader to the European Commission, in the F.E.T. (Future and Emerging Technologies) Programme, an ambitious project, which aims at studying neuronal plasticity at the network level. The project, named "A bioartificial brain with and artificial body: training a cultured neural tissue to support the purposive behavior of an artificial body", is starting this year and is coordinated by our research group which changed its name to "Neuroengineering and bio-nanotechnology" to indicate these new research lines.
One of his "creatures" he was most proud of is the annual workshop and advanced school in Neuroengineering he organized for the first time in 2001 at the University of Genova. Even during his struggle with cancer he kept on worrying about the organization of the 2nd meeting, which will take place in Genova, next June.
Massimo Grattarola was born on January 27th 1950 in Genova, Italy; he graduated in Physics in 1975 at the University of Genova, Italy, with a final dissertation on "Computer simulation of the cerebral linguistic circuit" under the supervision of Prof. Antonio Borsellino, father of Cybernetics in Italy. As witnessed by the argument of his dissertation, since the beginning he showed a great scientific curiosity for an interdisciplinary approach towards the world of biophysics and neurosciences. After a training period at the research centre for Biophysics and Cybernetics in Camogli (near Genova) he spent one year, as a Research Associate, at the Department of Biophysics and Physiology, Temple University, Philadelphia, U.S.A. During this period he focused his research activities on optical cytometry. He worked on a research field that we can now define as "Cellular Engineering", investigating the effects of electromagnetic fields at cellular and molecular level.
In 1978 he returned to Italy as Assistant Professor in Applied Biophysics at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Genova, and in 1982 he was one of the co-founders of the Department of Biophysical and Electronic Engineering where he worked till the end. In 1986 he became Associate Professor, teaching Bioelectronics for the Electronic Engineering degree and, since 1995, teaching Bioelectronics and Bioelectrochemistry for the Biomedical Engineering degree. During this period he created our Neural and Bioelectronic Technologies Group and was able to attract an always-increasing number of PhD students to work on research activities focused on the coupling between microelectronic devices and excitable cells. He transmitted to his students not only his knowledge but also, and even more, his enthusiasm for research and his creative way of doing science.
During the years he maintained regular contacts with international research groups interested in the cross-fertilization and synergies coming from the mixture of different know-how and disciplines. In 1991 and 1997 he was invited, as Visiting Professor, by Prof. Gregory Kovacs to work at the Centre for Integrated System, Stanford University, where, following pioneering work by Gross, he started a project exploiting the potentialities of MicroElectrode Arrays technique in the field of the in vitro electrophysiological investigation on networks of cultured neurons.
In 2000 he was appointed as full professor of Electronic Bioengineering and became the chairman of the PhD programme in Bioelectronics and Bioengineering at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Genova, Italy.
His scientific curriculum is well represented by more than 70 papers on international Journals, several contributions to scientific books, and invited talks in workshops and conferences.