Q&A with the new FEMS President
At the 2023 FEMS General Assembly held in Frankfurt during FEMS EUROMAT 2023 and following a secret vote, FEMS Member Societies confirmed Prof Aldo Boccaccini's appointment as FEMS President for 2024-2025. We caught up with him as his tenue starts.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born in San Rafael, Argentina, 61 years ago, where I studied nuclear engineering at Institute Balseiro in Bariloche. I moved to Germany in 1988 to carry out my PhD in materials science at RWTH Aachen University, which I completed in 1994. After post-doctoral stages in UK and USA, I returned to Germany to complete my 'Habilitation' in Materials Technology. Then, I had my first permanent academic appointment in 2000 at the Department of Materials, Imperial College London, UK. I spent almost 10 years at Imperial going from Lecturer to Reader to Professor, and in 2009 I moved back to Germany, when I took my current position as Head of the Institute of Biomaterials and Professor of Materials Science at the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg.
How do feel about taking up the role of FEMS President
I am deeply honoured to have been elected President of FEMS and am looking forward to working together with the Management Committee and FEMS Board to enhance FEMS visibility in the materials science community in Europe and worldwide. As a PhD student back in Aachen in 1989, I attended the first FEMS EUROMAT conference, which was held precisely in that city! Attending that conference marked my career for the future and I can say that over the years my career has progressed always connected to FEMS and the FEMS EUROMAT conference series. Very early, as PhD student, I became member of both IOM3 and of DGM, and these were excellent decisions I made, certainly I became active in both societies over the years and I started to assume more and more responsibilities in FEMS activities, particularly at FEMS EUROMAT conferences as symposium organiser, topic area coordinator and organizing committee member, practically in all FEMS EUROMAT conferences in the last 20 years... So, I would say that becoming FEMS President closes a circle in my career that started when I attended that first FEMS EUROMAT conference in 1989. Therefore, I am happy to have the opportunity to serve as FEMS President, and to return to the materials science community all that I have received during my career, from PhD student to Professor, in terms of professional development, networking opportunities, etc.
Has your predecessor, Asst Prof Anna Zervaki offered any advice
Yes! We have been talking frequently with Anna during the last two years, and I have learned from her about the ways FEMS works with its different structures; FEMS Board, Management Committee and Strategic Advisory Group. I am happy to continue working with her, as she stays as Immediate Past President as member of the Management Committee, in this way the continuity in FEMS leadership is guaranteed.
What aims do you have for your Presidency
Given the excellent development of FEMS in the last years, under the presidency of Asst Prof Anna Zervaki, it is only logical to continue and expand the key areas that contribute to the growth of FEMS, including:
• Continue to provide and extend benefits to FEMS Member Societies with focus on networking, and educational activities
• Expansion of the FEMS network in Europe (for example promoting interactions with societies which are not yet FEMS members and with new Associate Members)
• Identifying new European and overseas collaborations (USA, Canada, Australia, Asia and South America), for example with other active materials science societies
• Establishing new links with our earlier members, involving more effectively PhD students and post-docs in FEMS activities
• Continue our efforts to engage industry in FEMS activities
• Promote 'our' journal, the European Journal of Materials working together with the journal Editor-in-Chief and Editorial Board.
What are the most important challenges FEMS will be facing and how do you see its role during your Presidency and beyond
FEMS must maintain its visibility in the broad materials science community primarily in Europe but also worldwide. In this way, FEMS can continue to attract strong participation and the support of its member societies. Our challenge is thus to maintain and expand high quality, continuous activities that provide benefits to FEMS Member Societies not only regarding our traditional events, for example successful FEMS EUROMAT and FEMS Junior EUROMAT conferences, but also designing new, alternative ways to provide benefits to everyone involved in the materials science and technology sector. Here a challenge is to engage with the early career scientists and investigators, for example working together with the national FEMS Member Societies, in order to attract materials scientists in their early career stage to the FEMS community. Further challenges will involve continuing and expanding our interaction with industry and to identify areas of overlapping interests to make more visible the industrial dimension of FEMS activities.
What are the key challenges for Materials Science and what role will FEMS play
Materials science and technology are the keys to tackle today's important challenges in all areas from energy, environment, and transport, to healthcare, and security among others. This is not always clearly appreciated in some decision-making institutions, so FEMS has a role to play to be the advocate of materials science, primarily in Europe, for example in relation to the European Commission Research and Innovation programs. In this regard, I hope to contribute to expand our FEMS activities so that materials are placed as essential contributors to improve technologies for a better future.
Prof Aldo Boccaccini