SIE professor Roberto Furfaro, who has been with the college for more than 20 years, has been named the 2021 da Vinci fellow. Each year, one exceptional engineering faculty member is selected as a da Vinci Fellow and receives a one-time grant of $10,000. The grant is made possible by donors to the college's da Vinci Circle. In his time with the college, he has worked with the UA Controlled Environment Agriculture Center to develop an autonomous lunar greenhouse, designed a mission to explore shadowy areas of the moon, and led student teams building CubeSats for NASA research.
“The University of Arizona is extremely unique, in my opinion,” said Furfaro, director of the Space Systems Engineering Laboratory and the Space Situational Awareness Arizona Initiative. “I always felt like there were far fewer barriers between departments and colleges. I got a PhD in aerospace and mechanical engineering, but I developed quite a few connections at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, driven by my interest in space exploration. From the start, it felt like people were really open to cross collaboration.”
Furfaro currently advises a team of both domestic and international students, and he strives to provide them hands-on opportunities that will help them land exciting careers. He’s proud that several of his students were hired full time to work on OSIRIS-REX after their graduation.
“Roberto is a great mentor. He gives us a lot of responsibilities that help us grow professionally and personally,” said Enrico Schiassi, an Italian student who completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Bologna. “More importantly, he is also a great friend. He made me feel at home, although we are 10,000 km away from it."