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Order of the Star of Italy for Professor Polese

- Wits University

Associate Professor Claudia Polese has been awarded the prestigious Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy.

The Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy is bestowed upon Italians and citizens in recognition of their contributions to promoting Italy abroad or fostering friendly relations and cooperation between Italy and their country of residence.

During the celebrations of the Italian National Day and Republic Day on June 3, 2023, Polese, an Associate Professor in the School of Mechanical, Industrial & Aeronautical Engineering at Wits University, was honoured with this award by the Consul General of Italy in Johannesburg, Emanuela Curnis.

Professor Claudia Polese awarded Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy.

This prestigious honour is granted annually on this day to commemorate the institutional referendum of 1946 (June 2), when Italians voted to determine the form of their government after World War II.

While presenting the Order of the Star of Italy, Curnis expressed that Polese brings great pride to Italy and is truly deserving of this recognition.

Quoting from the Motivation for the Order of the Star of Italy, Curnis remarked, "Professor Polese is an esteemed academic and researcher. Throughout her professional career, she has held distinguished positions in leading Italian and South African universities, and has established numerous contacts and collaborations with research centres and institutions both in Italy and internationally. She maintains strong ties with Italy and takes great pride in her 'Italianita'."

Professor Claudia Polese awarded Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy.

Born in Cecina, Tuscany, Polese completed her Master's degree in Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Pisa. She went on to pursue her PhD in Conventional and Innovative Aerospace Joining Technologies at the Department of Aerospace Engineering in Pisa, as well as at the German Aerospace Center in Cologne.

In 2009, she joined Wits as an Associate Professor in Aerospace Manufacturing and Design, and she currently serves as the Advisory Aerospace Research Director of the National Aerospace Centre.

Polese also holds the position of Head of the Aeronautical Engineering Stream within the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at Wits, and she chairs the Faculty Transformation Committee.

Since 2011, she has led several collaborative projects and serves as the Deputy Director of the ARUA Centre of Excellence in Materials, Energy, and Nanotechnology. Additionally, she coordinates the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in the Strong Materials-Strong Metallic Alloys Focus Area. Her scientific contributions exceed 180 publications.

During her acceptance speech, Polese reflected on her initial journey from Pisa to Johannesburg, which took place 14 years ago, and shared the mix of sadness and excitement she experienced as she embarked on her new adventure at Wits.

Through her deep love for both her homeland and her adopted country, she has fostered strong relationships and remains actively engaged in promoting research projects, as well as industrial and scientific cooperation between Italy and South Africa.

Polese expressed her gratitude to the Consulate General and acknowledged “supervisors at the University of Pisa for giving me the wings and to Wits that provided me with this incredible blue sky to fly in”.

In conclusion, Polese extended her appreciation to her colleagues at Wits, expressing gratitude to those who have supported her in re-establishing her aeronautical research career in South Africa.