Luisa Torsi is full professor of chemistry since 2005 and is the immediate past-president of the European Material Research Society (E-MRS), the largest of its kind in Europe; she was the first woman to hold this role. Torsi graduated with a degree in physics from the University of Bari in 1989 and received her PhD in chemistry from the same institution in 1993. She was a post-doctoral fellow at Bell Labs from 1994 to 1996, and in 2005 and 2006, she was invited professor at the University of Anger and Paris 7, respectively. Presently, she is adjunct professor at the Åbo Academy University in Finland. In 2010 she was awarded the Heinrich Emanuel Merck prize, this marking the first time this prestigious award was given to a woman. She was also the recipient of European Woman Inventor of the Year 2015 award organized by the European Women Inventors & Innovators Network, an organization committed to helping women to succeed on the global market.
Torsi has been serving the materials research global community through a number of leadership activities as well as by being engaged in several distinguished volunteer services. Besides having presided over the E-MRS, she served as elected member of the E-MRS Executive Committee for several years. She also served as the co-chair of the 2015 MRS Fall Meeting & Exhibit and of the E-MRS Spring Meeting in 2012, and has co-organized a number of symposia for both societies. Finally, yet importantly, she has been elected as a 2017 MRS Fellow for pioneering work in the field of organic (bio) electronic sensors and for their use in point-of-care testing. Presently she is a member of the MRS Awards Nomination Subcommittee that solicits nominations for the MRS prizes and medals.
Torsi has authored about 170 ISI papers, including papers published in Science, Nature Materials, Nature Communications, PNAS, Advanced Materials and Scientific Reports, and is co-inventor of several international awarded patents. Her works have garnered almost 10,100 Google scholar citations, resulting in an h-index of 49. She has given more than 170 invited lectures, including almost 25 plenary and keynote contributions to international conferences. Her principal scientific contributions are in the fields of advanced materials and electronic devices mostly employed for sensing applications. Recently she co-investigated interfacial electronic effects in functional biological systems integrated into organic field-effect transistors. The devices show selectivity and exceptional sensitivities. Achievements comprise also the realization of a solid-state device capable of electronic chiral detection at very low concentrations as well as the measurement of multi-parametric responses in OFETs. She has also contributed to the first demonstration of the two-dimensional field-induced conductance in OFETs.
Torsi is strongly committed to the role of model for younger women scientists. She lectures on this topic in local high schools and cultural associations (such as Rotary, Lions and Soroptimist) and has been a featured TedX speaker, where she discussed the current state of affairs for women in the workforce.
Luisa was also a member of the National Board of the STAGES European project that aimed at implementing strategies to trigger structural changes addressing the issues connected with gender inequality in science.
The global breadth of MRS has been built through strategic plans that encompass the involvement of international players proven successful in serving the global materials research community. This aim has been eagerly pursued by promoting the communication for the advancement of interdisciplinary materials research and technology to improve global citizens’ quality of life. Continuing the engagement of representatives of the material science community from all over the world in MRS’s apical positions is strategic to mirror the actual geographically diversified compositions of the memberships. Indeed, MRS does gather members and volunteers, men and women, from over 90 countries around the world, from the richest countries to developing ones. To pursue this aim, I strongly believe that actions such as fostering and soliciting international nominations not only for MRS’s boards and governing bodies, but also for prizes and recognitions, is of key relevance.
It is also central to continue building a cultural asset that defines worldwide the features characterizing an interdisciplinary field such as Materials Science and Engineering. This can be done by pursuing and promoting discussion forums on the education and teaching of materials science, debating about curricula and learning activities where more traditional formats are expanded to incorporate new advances and discoveries. At the same time, it is important that these discussions are carried out worldwide to help the diffusion of a cultural identity structured along widely shared pillars. Moreover, a consistent and continuous dialogue between our community and the citizens, as well as the policy makers, is needed. While researchers and engineers from academia and the industrial sector, as well as the major stakeholders, are clearly aware of the scientific and technological advancements that are produced and can see pros and cons, the general public is generally not yet well informed, due to the difficulties in communicating to non-experts. But we live in a world where a channel to disseminate science clearly showing its great potentials but also with its limits, is needed. The global materials science community has to do its share of duty in this challenging task and MRS has the right structure in place to support such an action.
Last but not least my priority will be to foster and support any plan or action that aims at keeping and even improving the high standards of quality that MRS has reached. The main assets are the very successful MRS bi-annual meetings as well as the journals publishing contributions from the MRS community. In rough times when predatory conferences and low quality scientific journals are spreading, it is important to continue providing high quality review processes and top-notch scientific meetings that are assured by an international professional society such as MRS with its membership, its volunteers, and its staff. The future of the Society depends on our ability to maintain the solid foundations of excellence and professionalism that have been built over the decades and have resulted in outstanding products and services. At the same time, it is important for MRS to continue as a forum for materials scientists to gather in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, where innovative research is discussed, and top scientific works are presented.