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Nurturing Research Excellence: Collaborative Training and Development at DMEC

The research conducted at the Department of Mechanical Engineering involves professors, researchers, PhD students, and collaborators. The quality of scientific activities is ensured through the training received by researchers during their academic careers, starting with their undergraduate degree, continuing with a PhD, and extending to their roles as university researchers. Additionally, their training continues throughout their research activities, whether in collaboration with other universities or with companies that require specific scientific knowledge and methodologies. In addition to external collaborations, coordination and collaboration among researchers within the same research group are essential, as they work synergistically to achieve desired outcomes.

The "Coaching for RTDx" project (RTD being the acronym for Assistant Professor) aims to support and enhance researchers' performance, primarily in terms of personal development. Similar to approaches in the corporate world, the project focuses on the well-being of researchers and their performance in project management, as well as their interactions with individuals involved in research projects. The objective is to improve the effectiveness of their interventions, both professionally and in personal relationships with colleagues and external staff.

Paolo Schito, a researcher promoting the initiative, states that the coaching project was proposed to increase researchers' impact within the working environment. He emphasizes that research activities cannot be carried out individually or in isolation within one's office or laboratory, but rather require essential coordination among all participants. This includes managing relationships within the research group, which comprises fellow researchers, graduate students, PhD students, and professors. Leveraging the relationships between collaborators with diverse skills and personalities is crucial for enhancing performance and ensuring effective research outcomes while allowing individuals to follow their personal inclinations. Therefore, coaching is not a traditional training activity but a process in which researchers must actively engage to enhance their work performance.

The scientific commission of the Department, with particular support from Prof. Stefano Foletti, welcomed the project. It is worth noting that this initiative is unique in the Italian academic landscape, as it focuses not only on developing scientific skills but also on training individuals to be effective and efficient in their work, including managerial and interpersonal aspects.

The initiative was initiated by former director Prof. Marco Bocciolone and is being implemented by the current director, Prof. Marco Belloli. It aligns well with future programs planned by the university, which include various activities aimed at developing the soft skills of teaching staff. The professional development and training service of Politecnico di Milano also supports this initiative.

Dr. Loretta Redaelli, an expert in business coaching and university training, is the coach involved in the initiative. She highlights the interesting challenge of introducing coaching to the academic world, as the dynamics within academia differ significantly from those in business contexts.
The project activities commenced in May 2023 with a kick-off event held at the Istituto dei Ciechi (the Institute for the Blind) in Milan. During this event, the researchers participated in an experimental activity conducted in complete darkness, testing their leadership, collaboration, coordination, and involvement skills. At the end of the activity, the researchers were asked to propose a slogan summarizing their experience at the Institute for the Blind. Their proposal, "ASK_ALL_TACI!", combines the words ASK (to ask), ALL (meaning inclusion), and TACI (silence, meaning avoiding judgment toward others). These elements are fundamental for fostering a comprehensive understanding of matters.

Additional activities are planned for the upcoming months. Stay tuned for further updates.