When she completed, in the early 80s, the doctoral programme in Bioengineering, the number of PhDs in Italy could be counted on the fingers of one hand. From the accomplishment she is mostly proud of, to the most memorable moment in her career: here’s our interview to Maria Laura Costantino, President of MEDTEC School, a 6-year degree course in Medicine and Biomedical Engineering run by Humanitas University in partnership with Politecnico di Milano.
What’s the most valuable skill of a MEDTEC School graduate?
An interdisciplinary approach, the ability to integrate medical knowledge with the engineering and technological know-how. Technologies are nowadays increasingly penetrating Medicine. This School teaches you how to use machines responsibly, how to deal with the data and images of people in order to improve both the interaction and treatment of patients.
What has been your greatest accomplishment as a student?
Probably having completed a doctoral programme which had just been set up in Italy. We have been pioneers, the other Italian PhDs and I. This experience has been incredibly stimulating and interesting.
What has been the most memorable moment in your career so far?
There are a couple: all the clinical studies I’ve carried out as a biomedical engineer and setting up the MEDTEC School. For me, the latter was a dream come true.
Spesso si dice che l’Italia non sia in grado di trattenere i propri talenti, soprattutto in ambito scientifico. Lei ha scelto di rimanere in Italia. Come mai?
Italy’s brain drain is a long-lasting phenomenon. Why have you stayed?
I’ve decided to stay in Italy because in the past, if you went abroad, you had low chances of getting back into academia as people in our universities totally lacked a shared vision. I’ve also decided to stay because, back then, in the early 80s, Italy had set up a number of doctoral programmes. You therefore had the opportunity to engage with serious applied research. It has been a conscious decision and I don’t regret it.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I think I would suggest my younger self to basically redo everything. For sure, I would choose the same career: I would deal with the same type of devices as my passion for the development of artificial organs is huge, even now. As a consequence, the biggest advice I would give myself would be: «Don’t give up, bite the bullet and you’ll make it».