Study abroad from home

Cosimo Barbieri did his PhD research at the ZHAW School of Engineering. But due to the covid pandemic he did his studies virtually. In this interview he tells us of his experience.

Please describe yourself: Who are you? Where are you from? What were you studying?
My name is Cosimo Barbieri, I am from Florence, Italy. I am an industrial engineer and currently a PhD student of the Smart Industry program, organized by the main university centers in Tuscany, Italy: University of Florence, University of Pisa and University of Siena. For my research project – studying the role of digital twins in the servitization of manufacturing companies – I won a three-year research grant provided by the Tuscany Region.

How did it come you started the PhD exchange with the ZAHW School of Engineering?
I met Jürg Meierhofer at an important initiative organized by the ASAP community forum, one of the most important communities in Europe on the servitization and digital servitization topic. With a common field of research and interests (digital twins and servitization) and considering my will to experience a period of studying abroad, I asked to apply for a PhD exchange at ZHAW. Jürg Meierhofer – independently by the difficult period of the pandemic – gave me several opportunities of networking, meetings, chats and etc. with great students and scientists of the school.

What is your research about?
A digital twin is the digital replica of a physical asset, process, etc. It can be seen as a mean to collect, manipulate and elaborate real time data to monitor, control and predict the behavior of the real world. On the tracks of the digital servitization field of research, the digital twin can help manufacturing companies to develop and deliver data-driven services that can be highly valuable for the customers, and a mean to differentiate from the competitors. So my research, based on a previous literature review, aimed to investigate the role of digital twins in the servitization of manufacturing companies.

What was it like to realize this topic in a virtual research environment?
Not easy but the ZHAW team made great efforts. We had virtual coffee breaks and social virtual meetings. Anyway, I really missed the physical experience, the networking, the visit that I could have had in a normal time.

What was the output from your research project in exchange with ZHAW?
The output of my research project are scientific papers that are currently in the stage of finalization.

What was it like to do a “semester abroad” without leaving the country?
As I said before, the ZHAW made efforts to make the virtual experience great but I missed to meet and spend time with my colleagues physically in Winterthur. Of course, I’d also liked to visit the city, surroundings, try the local day life and so on. I’m sure in the next moths there will be an opportunity to meet with Jürg Meierhofer and the others!

What were your learnings from the exchange?
I learned that ZHAW has a great and mixed team of engineers, data scientists, etc. who work greatly together in order to achieve the maximum result. I learned how important it is to have chats and talks in order to develop new ideas and also to support each other in problematic times of loneliness and separation. The particular conditions in which the exchange happened give me also the reason to focus more my priorities in my personal and professional life which I think will be of key importance for my future.

Will you come and visit the ZHAW School of Engineering eventually?
Sure!

1 Comment

  1. Jürg Meierhofer

    5. October 2021 at 8:17

    Many thanks for your initiative to spend some time with ZHAW, Cosimo. Research and innovation live so much on open exchange and we got very inspired by the new perspectives of you and Mario Rapaccini.

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