Day 19- June 3rd

This is our last day to visit universities.  We headed out after breakfast on the train outside of Lugano.  It was a 20 minute walk or so and we arrived at Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera Italiana or better known as Supsi.  Supsi is an applied science university and all programs are geared towrds the needs of industry.  They focus on the requirements of professional life.  They offer bachelors and masters degrees and have full-time and part-time programs.  It is a lot smaller of a school than the other universities that we have visited with 3951 students.  They graduated 185 masters students in 2012.  They have a low student to teacher ratio with a maximum of 25-30 students in the labs.  There were a couple powerpoint presentations on their research including the Eyesens project, single-cell bioanalyzer, and tlectrochemical DNA sensor array.  The Eyesens project is an implantable system to monitor intraocular pressure for those people who have glaucoma that allows doctors to monitor the pressure reducing vision loss.  The single cell bioanalyzer can measure cell respiration, RT-PCR, and cell impedence.  The electrochemical DNA sensor measures single-strand DNA in blood samples to detect viruses.  A lot of really cool innovative things.

We next visited three labs.  The first was a voice-activated computers to control electronics in an apartment for visually-impaired people.  We then visited a lab that had a table-top touch screen computer fore manufacturing plant design.  Lastly we visited a lab that created polymers for solar panels and used a 3-D printer for making parts.  We had lunch there on campus and a couple of the professors joined us.  I got to ask them about teaching and found out that they do not do a reward system for teaching excellence.  If a professor receives low marks on their evaluations, they have to provide written justification for why the evals were so bad.

After lunch we took two buses into Lugano and visited Universita della Svizzera Italiana or USI.  We were very blessed to have the president speak to us and answer all our questions.  Some of the things we learned were that USI has a high percentage of internatiobnal students with 26%.  They also only have 4 departments: architecture, economics, communication and informatics.  They currently have 2919 students and they want to grow to 3500-4000 students and then cap it at that.  They do offer PhDs and currently they have 292 PhD students.  Once a year they have a community cultural event where they have university awards.  They give one award each year to the best teacher and each year it rotates as to which department the teacher is nominated from.  The award is nominated by the student and the teacher is awarded a 10,000CF cash prize sponsored a swiss bank.  I also learned that they hire many assistant professors where they have a 6 year max. to reach tenure.  They are reviewed at 3 years and tenure is based on publications, grants and teaching.  This system is very similar to what we have in the US.  After the president spoke, a graudate student shared a little bit about her reserach in computer modeling.  Then a recent graduate that has a dual-degree at USI and VT spoke about her personal experience at USI and a bit about her time in Blacksburg.  Both girls were very down to earth and easy to relate to.  Another student gave us a tour of the campus, which was made up of about 5 buildings.  They did offer some student housing, which is a rarity.  After that they treated us to coffee and ice cream in their cafeteria.

We then walked into downtown Lugano for some shopping.  I headed back to Riva for some quiet time before dinner.  As per usual, dinner in the Villa was excellent and the weather has been fabulous the last couple of days.  After dinner we met in the garden for some more debriefing about our visits.  Visiting Supsi and USI were my favorite university visits because of what we saw and because we got to know the people we visited a little bit better.  It was a great day.

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