The personal and professional rewards of a well-designed sabbatical

Massimo Bionaz, an Associate Professor in the Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences, recently returned from a sabbatical in Piacenza, Italy. A PhD graduate from what is now named the Department of Animal Sciences (DIANA), Food and Nutrition at the Universta Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, he returned “home” for both personal and professional reasons.

In addition to exposing his children to life in Italy, Bionaz also wanted to reconnect with his former colleagues at DIANA who were leading research in measuring blood parameters in ruminants. This group was also the first to attempt to measure blood parameters in bovine and horse using the Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) and Bionaz was interested in the potential of that technique.

One of the major issues concerning the FTIR method is it requires a large sample volume that is often not feasible. In order to address those limitations, Bionaz connected with two companies, Perkin Elmer and Dxcover, that agreed to lend him a FTIR instrument and a special technology to measure blood parameters using microliters of samples. He also partnered with DIANA whose prior experience with the FTIR and their access to thousands of samples made the research possible. The report is now being finalized to detail results of these efforts to better understand the potential of this FTIR method.

While professionally rewarding, reconnecting Bionaz with his alma mater and building new international research opportunities, the real value of this sabbatical was personal as he was able to live in his native Italy and expose his four children to new aspects of their culture, visiting cities across the nation as well as family members.


Photo: Dr. Massimo Bionaz and Dr. Erminio Trevisi, the director of the department in Italy where I spent my sabbatical period.