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Think Magazine: Issue 14


We Love Science

How Facebook suggests friends, studies of crystals, why mobile radiation is not harmful to health, and where new alien species come from is all research out of the Faculty of Science. To celebrate 100 years since it was founded Think magazine has just released its Science Issue. 

The Mediterranean Sea is warming up. The increase in temperature is destroying temperature barriers allowing newcomer and alien species to thrive around Malta. A newly widened Suez Canal has increased shipping transport making the problem worse. To monitor this changing environment Prof. Patrick J. Schembri is part of a Mediterranean-wide network studying marine protected areas facing these threats .

Over half the Maltese public uses Facebook. These are all connected in a huge web that can only be understood using the mathematical discipline called Graph Theory. This maths has its origin in 1737 when Leonhard Euler created a mathematical description based on the islands and bridges of a town. Like islands and bridges build networks, so do social media connections on Facebook. 

Researchers at the Department of Geosciences (University of Malta) are figuring out just how polluted Maltese air is and how climate change is affecting the Mediterranean. Also on human health, Prof. Charles Sammut and his team have studied how mobile phone antennaes effect people since 2001. No long-term, harmful effects were found, instead they are now seeing how microwave radiation can help diagnose and cure diseases.  

Other studies see Maltese researchers crash testing the largest experiment in the world. Dr Marija Cauchi tested the LHC to help protect it from itself. From mega experiments to much smaller ones that fit in the palm of your hand, the PEST research group uses continuous mutation testing to help make apps for smart phones and tablets more reliable cheaply. 

Apps could help you learn a new language, but not every app covers every skill you need to learn a language. Veronica Stivala interviews a few academics to find out if there really is an app for that. Another story linked to language talks about Tommaso Vella’s first Maltese mathematics textbook, Aritmetica Bil Malti u Bl’Inglis (1913). Vella wrote the book the same way the language was spoken: sometimes a sentence starts in Maltese and ends in English, with a few equations thrown in. 

The Science Issue features some hard hitting opinions by students from S-Cubed (the science student society), loads of reviews, a design section and much more. 

Think, the University of Malta’s research magazine, may be picked up for free in newsagents around Malta and Gozo and in Agenda bookstores, it is now available online, available on Issuu, followed on Twitter @ThinkUoM or liked on Facebook


06 October 2015

Honorable mention at the Society of Actuaries' 50th Actuarial Research Conference

The Department of Insurance, Faculty of Economics, Management and Accountancy, is pleased to announce that the presentation by Dominic Cortis entitled 'Reserving for the Dark Side' has been awarded an honourable mention at the 50th Actuarial Research Conference (ARC) in Toronto. This follows his best presentation award at the 48th Actuarial Research Conference held in Philadelphia.  Further information regarding the award can be found at the Society of Actuaries' website.

Earlier this year Mr Cortis was also awarded a Graduate Scholar Award at the Sport and Society Conference. 

Mr Cortis is an assistant lecturer within the Department of Insurance, Faculty of Economics, Management and Accountancy (FEMA), University of Malta. The presentation at the 50th ARC is based on the development of a solvency regime for bookmakers (betting companies).


06 October 2015

Junior College Opening of Academic Year

JC Opening Ceremony 2015-16

During the last week of September, in preparation for the new academic year, Mr Xuereb, Principal of the Junior College and Dr Philip Caruana, Vice-Principal, held separate meetings with freshmen and their parents at the Sir Temi Zammit Hall, University of Malta Msida Campus. A meeting with staff was held at the Junior College Auditorium. 

Freshers’ week at the Junior College is taking place from 5 to 9 October. This year a students’ helpdesk, the ‘Students’ point’ will be set up to provide further assistance as well as to promote the College’s social media platforms.

A co-curricular activities week will be held the following week; students will be informed about the many activities that the Junior College has to offer to complement the academic programme. 

The JC Administration welcomes all staff and students and bids a prosperous academic year 2015/16.


02 October 2015

Researchers discovered a new strong genetic cause for osteoporosis and fractures

A large international study led by a group of researchers from Montreal’s McGill University, Canada, and Rotterdam’s Erasmus University Medical Centre, The Netherlands, and which included Maltese researchers Professor Angela Xuereb and Dr Melissa Formosa, from the Department of Applied Biomedical Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, identified a new rare variant lying close to the gene Engrailed homeobox 1 (EN1) which has a fourfold increased impact on bone mineral density (BMD) and fractures compared to all other previously reported variants to date. The identified gene variant is relatively rare (1%) in the overall population, however it is more frequent among those with the disease, predisposing carriers of the variant to an unusually high risk of osteoporosis. This is the first time that the EN1 gene has been linked to osteoporosis in humans, thus making it a strong target for the development of drugs to treat the condition.

The genetic research involved the participation of more than 500,000 individuals, including those of the Malta Osteoporotic Fracture Study. Different testing methods were applied to find the rare genetic variants, including the whole-genome sequencing method, and the findings were subsequently confirmed by testing in a number of independent studies, including the Malta Osteoporotic Fracture study. The EN1 gene was also tested in mice, confirming that indeed the gene affects limb development in mice. 

Osteoporosis is a silent bone disease in which bone mass significantly decreases, especially with increasing age, giving rise to an increased fracture risk. The most common and important fracture sites are the hip, spine and wrist, which are most debilitating for patients and inflict huge costs on the global economy. The prevalence of osteoporosis and fractures is on the rise as a result of the increase in the ageing population. A number of risk factors are known to increase the development of such conditions, such as a low body mass index, young age at menopause, low physical activity, smoking and high alcohol consumption, and a strong family history of osteoporosis and fragility fractures, highlighting the presence of a strong genetic component. Hence, such genetic research studies, provide valuable information regarding bone biology, osteoporosis and skeletal fragility, which in turn help in the early identification of susceptible individuals and the implementation of preventive measures in such individuals, especially since few safe and effective treatments are currently available. 

The findings of this study have been published in the prestigious journal Nature:  “Whole-genome sequencing identifies EN1 as a determinant of bone density and fracture”, Nature, on-line September 14, 2015.


01 October 2015

Agreement for Further Collaboration between University of Malta and Public Service

Agreement for Further Collaboration between University of Malta and Public Service

A Memorandum of Understanding for the enhancement of collaboration between the University of Malta and the Public Service of Malta has been signed between the University, represented by Rector, Professor Juanito Camilleri, and the Government of Malta, represented by the Principal Permanent Secretary, Mr Mario Cutajar. The MoU represents a framework governing the relationship between the Government and the University regarding training and research relating to the Public Service.

The University of Malta has a long history of collaboration with the Public Service in the delivery of academic training to public officers, notably through the Institute for Public Administration and Management. These links between the Public Service and the University have been strengthened over the past two years, through further collaboration with the Department of Public Policy, and the designation of the Centre for Development, Research and Training (CDRT) within the Office of the Prime Minister as a University campus. The University is willing to continue contributing to Public Service renewal in the national interest. This requires a better qualified workforce through the provision of tertiary-level courses that are tailored to the needs of the Public Service.

The Government shall identify training needs at tertiary level in the Public Service and shall consider, jointly with the University, whether these needs can be met through existing University courses, adaptations of them, or the development of new courses. Moreover, each year the Government shall identify research topics of interest to ministries, departments and other Government entities. These topics are to be made available to the Faculty of Economics, Management and Accountancy, or other faculties as may be appropriate, for consideration as possible student dissertation research topics. The Government shall, through its Centre for Development, Research and Training (CDRT), grant students who select such topics access to data for facilitating their research.

The Goverment may also organise summer or post-course work placements for students in selected University courses. These placements shall be separate from those provided by the Ministry for Education and Employment through the Student Maintenance Grants Board.


01 October 2015

Opening of Academic Year 2015-2016


think outside the box... and read the signs of our times!

Rector's Speech

News Coverage [MT] 

Opening Ceremony 2015-16

The University of Malta opened its doors this morning to new students for Academic Year 2015-2016. Rector, Professor Juanito Camilleri, and KSU President, Becky Micallef, welcomed freshers at Sir Temi Zammit Hall, while the University Wind Ensemble directed by Dr Philip Ciantar provided musical interludes. Inauguration Mass at the University Chapel was celebrated by Chaplain Fr Michael Bugeja at 12.30.

In the initial part of his thought provoking address, Rector remarked that in his youth the one thing he thought he could always rely on was the Maltese summer weather. He now realised that one can only rely on the fact that change  happens. While this change could be positive, he said, it could also be destructive - if it were to be based on prejudice, opportunism, intolerance or even hate. To resist this kind of negative change, Rector said, we need to educate ourselves, seek the truth and that which is good, based on knowledge, tolerance and equity. 

Pointing out this year’s theme: think outside the box... and read the signs of our times! Professor Camilleri said that it was consistent with the messages he put forward during his rectorship.  He drew attention to one’s responsibility to make the right choices and challenge that which has become the norm. He invited students to think outside the box and to hone a global vision, to question what is said with an open mind and a different perspective. While completing university with a set of skills was very important, he said, it was not enough. Going back to the previous year’s theme, Rector explained that in order to make an impact, one had to first discover one’s true self and all that one stood for, while seeking to understand what was taking place in the world and reading the sign of the times. He encouraged students to move beyond Malta’s shores and decipher how the country looked ‘from the moon’.
Addressing international students from 71 countries, Professor Camilleri reiterated that we all live in a world laden with opportunities, choices, and also with threat if we make the wrong choices. 

He said new disciplines continued to emerge, discoveries in quantum and astrophysics gave us new insights on how the world and the universe are “wired up”. He observed how social media have been instrumental in bringing down regimes, and yet, Rector remarked, we still had to see if these can be useful at all in building effective democracies.

Rector exclaimed that the way global economics unfolded in the past few years forced the rewriting of economics textbooks. He talked about the impact of climate change, natural disasters, environmental degradation, and war, while we often sat back in the comfort of our sitting rooms wondering when someone else - not us - was going to do something about it. “Never fear change, never refrain from asking a question for fear of the answer”, Professor Camilleri said. “Do not let life pass you by whilst you spectate... Seek to participate, seek to engage, seek to make a difference, cash in on the talents that adorn you... and do so for the benefit of those around you...”
Rector then took his audience on a mental journey to a possible scenario in the future. He explained that at the current rate of growth the computation power of a chip will exceed that of a human brain in between a decade or two from now. It was not outrageous, he said, to predict that probably within the lifetime of today’s freshers, the computation power of microcomputing devices of some form will in time match the grey matter of all humanity put together - all the nine or so billion humans who will inhabit the earth then. There were clearly pros and cons to all this, he said, but it will become increasingly pertinent to ask ourselves what it is that makes us human. This was why, Professor Camilleri said, he wholeheartedly believed in a Bohemian style of education which was not overly utilitarian or prescribed, in the need to invest in the humanities, in creativity, in unbridled innovation, in things of beauty, in things that uplift our hearts and feed our soul with goodness.

Professor Camilleri referred to this being his last nine months after 10 years serving as Rector. He pointed out that he was the 80th rector in the University of Malta’s 420 years history. At this point he thanked all his collaborators for being there to help him steer the University during his Rectorship. He concluded by appealing to the student and alumni community to always be proud of their Alma Mater – cherish its outstanding past and help build a brighter future.

Opening Ceremony 2015-16

Opening Ceremony 2015-16


01 October 2015

Rector's Speech: Opening Ceremony for Academic Year 2015/16

Diskors tal-Ftuħ tar-Rettur

ħares lejn id-dinja mill-qamar... u agħraf is-sinjali ta’ żminijietna! 
think outside the box... and read the signs of our times!

Kanċillier, Ministru, Membri tal-Kunsill, membri tal-korp akkademiku, ħaddiema tal-Università, għeżież studenti tal-Università u tal-Junior College ...

Hu ta’ pjaċir kbir għalija li għal darb’ oħra qiegħed nilqagħkom hawn illum għal sena akkademika ġdida. 

Din is-sena, is-sajf kien pjuttost stramb... bi sħana qalila u b’tidlik f’Lulju … b’xita u sajjetti qajla wasal nofs Awwissu [li l-anqas lil San Gejtanu ma ħallew bi kwietu] … u f’Settembru filli ried jaħraqna, filli jxarrabna, u ħafna drabi jtajjarna … ta’ kuljum ma tafx jekk is-sajf hux dieħel jew ħiereġ! 

F’żgħożiti kont naħseb li jekk stajt inserraħ moħħi fuq xi ħaġa din żgur kienet fuq it-temp sajfi Malti. Iżda llum, forsi għax xjaħt kemmxejn, naf li fil-ħajja l-unika ħaġa li fil-fatt tista’ sserraħ moħħok fuqha hi l-bidla, f’ċiklu wara l-ieħor tal-ħajja.

Issa saħansitra s-sajf Malti m’għadux dak li kien dari!

Għeżież studenti u kollegi, din ġurnata ta’ ferħ... qegħdin ngħixu lkoll f’dinja eċitanti ta’ bidla, bidla li qiegħda sseħħ b’għaġla kbira... forsi xi wħud iħossu li b’għaġla żejda. Iżda d-dinja mhi ser tieqaf tistenna lil ħadd!

Il-bidla minnha nnifisha mhix ħaġa ħażina... altru... xogħolna bħala skulari u akkademiċi hu li dejjem infittxu dak li hu ġdid, l-innovattiv, l-għerf li jtejjeb il-ħajja, li jiftaħ l-imħuħ u l-orizzonti. 

Iżda, kif tafu, tista’ teżisti wkoll bidla distruttiva... li ssir bla ħsieb, bla raġuni... bidla li titwettaq bħala l-għan aħħari... bla rispett għat-tajjeb tal-passat, mhux motivata b’taħriġ, mhux imsejsa fuq il-valuri... iżda bbażata fuq preġudizzji, opportuniżmu, intolleranza, biża’, jew saħansitra fuq mibegħda. Din it-tip ta’ bidla hi t-tip li rridu nirreżistu... u dan billi nitħarrġu, u nħarrġu, u nfittxu ndawlu l-imħuħ bil-verità u bis-sewwa. 

Għalhekk hu sinifikanti jum bħal dan. Illum din l-università tibda ċiklu ġdid... sena akkademika ġdida. Għandna magħna grupp ġdid ta’ studenti tal-Università u tal-Junior College. Dawn jimlewna b’kuraġġ ġdid... dawn joħolqu dawl ġdid.

Qegħdin hawn biex nilqgħuhom fil-familja Universitarja – familja b’passat distint u impenjat. 
Qegħdin hawn biex nistidnuhom jiżfnu żifna ħelwa mal-muża tal-għerf... ħalli jitħarrġu u jagħrfu kif fil-fatt jistgħu jwettqu bidla ta’ fejda fid-dinja ta’ għada, ibbażata fuq l-għerf, it-tolleranza, u fuq l-ekwità.
Iżda qabel xejn, għax malajr naħrab bija nnifsi... huwa xieraq li nintroduċi ruħi bħas-soltu... jisimni Juanito Camilleri, u għad-disa’ xhur li ġejjin jien ser inkompli nservi bħala r-Rettur tal-Università ta’ Malta. Fit-tim tar-Retturi tul erba’ mija u għoxrin sena storja ta’ din l-istituzzjoni, jien in-“number 80”... Fix-xhur li ġejjin ser jinħatar Rettur ġdid, u jkun min ikun, jew tkun min tkun, jien ċert li ilkoll ser ningħaqdu biex din it-transizzjoni ssir bil-galbu u b’mod seren.

Huwa tajjeb li ser issir bidla fit-tmexxija tal-Università. Biex inkun onest l-ewwel nett tajjeb ħafna għal saħti għax, kważi għaxar snin wara li bdejt din il-mixja, nemmen li wasal iż-żmien li nieħu pass lura biex nagħraf eżattament x’ser nagħmel meta nikber! Pero’ tajjeb ukoll għal din l-istituzzjoni għax fi ħdanha hawn ħafna talent, u jien ċert li hawn nies li għandhom viżjoni u kapaċità li jkomplu minn fejn jien u sħabi ser inwasslu din l-istituzzjoni sa’ Ġunju li ġej.

Xejn, xejn, is-sena d-dieħla fid-diskors tal-ftuħ ser tisimgħu diska ġdida... għax wara għaxar snin anke l-aħjar album tar-Rock ‘n Roll jibda jistona!  


U mela issa niġi għat-tema li għażilt għal din is-sena, li mhix inkonsistenti mal-messaġġi li fittixt li ngħaddi tul dan ir-rettorat:

ħares lejn id-dinja mill-qamar... u agħraf is-sinjali ta’ żminijietna! 

Din mhix stedina biex tgħixu ħajjitkom kollha b’raskom fl-isħab, għalkemm dan dejjem aħjar milli ikollkom raskom mirduma fir-ramel! Nassigurakom li xi ftit tal-ħin fl-isħab hu anke neċessarju minn żmien għal ieħor għax ir-realtà tal-ħajja xi kultant taqtagħlek nifsek! 

Tkunux ankrati wisq fl-hekk imsejħa “normi tad-dinja” jew fi prammattiżmu falz... Id-dinja hi kif inhi frott l-għażliet tajba jew ħżiena tal-passat. Dan ma jfissirx li ma tistax tkun aħjar jew agħar... ir-responsabbiltà hija tagħna... fl-aħħar mill-aħħar ilkoll għandna għażliet x’nagħmlu... Iżda aħna, l-umanità, ser ikollna l-ħila u l-għaqal biex nagħżlu sewwa? 

Żommu moħħkom miftuħ – ta’ spiss ħudu passtejn lura, fittxu li tħarsu lejn id-dinja minn lenti mhux tas-soltu... iva, metaforikament, ħarsu lejha mill-qamar! Tkunux bħan-ngħaġ ta’ Bendu... taċċettawx dak kollu li jintqal mingħajr ma taħsbu b’moħħkom... tibqgħux tgħixu fl-għeluq ta’ gżira żgħira tisimgħu dejjem l-istess kantaliena... iżda agħrfu li hemm barra hemm dinja kbira li, trid jew ma tridx, ser tibqa iddur, bik jew mingħajrek... 

Għeżież studenti, intom qegħdin tieħdu l-impenn biex tkomplu tistudjaw u titħarrġu biex titilqu minn hawn b’ħiliet li għad iservukom fil-ħajja u li bihom għad isservu fil-professjonijiet rispettivi tagħkom. Li toħorġu minn hawn armati sa sninkom b’dawk l-għodod tal-mistier tagħkom huwa importanti, iżda dan mhux biżżejjed. 

Bħala gradwati denji tal-isem, intom tridu wkoll tagħrfu d-dinja, tagħrfu s-sinjali taż-żmien, u tridu tipproġettaw l-identità, it-twemmin, it-talenti tagħkom f’ibħra ta’ opportunitajiet f’dinja dejjem aktar globalizzata. F’dawn l-ibħra tridu tkunu tafu mhux biss kif, iżda wkoll fejn u b’liema lixka l-aħjar tistadu... u meta u kif l-aħjar tistkennu meta xxommu l-maltemp ġej.

U fuq din in-nota nixtieq ngħid kelmtejn bl-Ingliż għax huwa importanti li niftakru li għandna fostna studenti barranin minn wieħed u sebgħin pajjiż, li llum nistidinkom tilqgħuhom magħna. Dawn kellhom il-kuraġġ jitilqu minn pajjiżhom biex jiftħu l-orizzonti tagħhom magħna. 

Nispera li kull wieħed u waħda minnkom tfittxu li titilqu minn xtutna u tiftħu moħħkom għad-dinja bħala parti integrali mill-formazzjoni edukattiva tagħkom. 

Teħdunix ħażin, Malta sabiħa ħafna, u lkoll inħobbuha... iżda din l-art ħelwa, kif tidher mill-qamar?


Dear international freshers, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the University of Malta and I thank you for patiently listening to the initial part of my speech which I delivered in Maltese in accordance with established tradition. 

Today you have joined a vibrant academic community which looks at the future with optimism and looks back on its past with pride.

I understand the challenge you face and the excitement of leaving your homeland to pursue studies abroad. Settling down in a foreign country whilst delving into one’s study or research programme is a challenge, but, I assure you that you will soon cherish your stay with us. 

Please do not hesitate to seek the assistance of the International Students Office should the need arise, and please note that Professor Mary-Anne Lauri, the Pro-Rector in charge of Student and Institutional Affairs, and Professor Marilyn Clark, my delegate in charge of International Student Wellbeing, are available to assist you.

I trust you will put to good use the facilities in the Library and the IT Services Centre and that these provide you with a comfortable study environment, beyond the facilities provided by your respective faculties.   

In the initial part of my speech I invited all students to think outside the box and to hone a global vision.

We live in a world laden with opportunities, laden with choices... Yes laden with threat if we make the wrong choices... an exciting world where the frontiers of technology are rapidly expanding the realm of the possible and the corpus of what is known... 

New disciplines continue to emerge from biotechnology to information and communication technologies, from the production of digital games to nanotechnology and nano-materials… 

Discoveries in quantum physics and astrophysics give us new insights into how the world and the universe are “wired up”, we see how social media have been instrumental in bringing down regimes, and yet, we still have to see if they can be useful at all in building effective democracies… 

We have seen global economics unfold in the past few years in a way which forces us to rewrite our economics textbooks, we engage on a daily basis as part of a global community, we chat online, SMS, tweet, and pour our life, joys and frustrations on Facebook... it seems that privacy has gone out of fashion! 

We store stem-cells from the placentas of our newly born in the hope that these may be instrumental in saving their life down the line, or that of their children's children, we strive to define our cultural identities whilst ironically we have the technology to genetically map a human-being comprehensively in a matter of hours… 

We witness the impact of climate change, natural disasters, environmental degradation, and war, and yet we often sit back in the comfort of our sitting rooms wondering when someone else - not us - is going to do something about it… 

We strive to define what we believe in, what we stand for, and we do so conscious, or should I say, over-conditioned by what is trendy or cool…

We strive to learn more and more languages, human as well as algebraic, to interact with minds and machines…

We live in a kaleidoscope of change, it’s so exciting, it’s almost breathtaking, most certainly daunting... but fear not dear students... 

Never fear change, never refrain from asking a question for fear of the answer, do not let life pass you by whilst you spectate... seek to participate, seek to engage, seek to make a difference, cash in on the talents that adorn you... and do so for the benefit of those around you... 

fear not because you are about to acquire an important toolset in the coming years at University… a toolset and hopefully the accompanying values and insight to put it to good use. 

Allow me to take you forward to thirty odd years from now... most of you students will be my current age then... I certainly hope I will still be around, and hope we will have the opportunity to meet again... and reminisce this special moment. 

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like then... approaching the midway point of this century...? Let's dream and speculate for fun... of course none of what I say hereafter is certain but likely... very, very likely. 

I am sure that most of you would have heard of Moore's Law... well in the 70's Moore - an Intel systems engineer - observed that the number of transistors on a chip was doubling every 2 years... well if we use a more modern variant of Moore's law, one observes that the computation power that can be embedded in a single chip is doubling, but even more rapidly than previous predications... in fact at present it is doubling in less than 18 months... With the technological innovation in the pipeline, chip-designers believe that this trend will persist for at least the next two decades… 

Now to keep things in perspective, the computation power of the fastest chips at present is comparable to the computation power of the brain of a mouse... not that impressive, one may think... although mice are not that dumb I assure you… 

Well think about this then... at the current rate of growth the computation power of a chip will exceed that of a human brain in between a decade or two from now... well there again... given the way in which some of us reason at times... this too may not be that impressive either... 

Indeed if current trends persist beyond the next two decades... it is not outrageous to predict that probably within the lifetime of the freshers here today the computation power of micro computing devices of some form will in time match the grey matter of all humanity put together - all the nine or so billion humans who will inhabit the earth then! 

Now that's mind blowing!

This exponential growth in processing juice together with the rapid advancement of nanotechnology will see micro electromechanical systems smaller than the thickness of a hair embedded in all sorts of artifacts or materials allowing all sorts of wonderful applications... self-healing materials, communicating surfaces, intelligent plaster... smart dust! 

Imagine electronic devices injected in a blood stream to deliver just the right dose of cure to attack the precise cancerous spot in a body... Imagine having a device embedded in your ear that has the ability to simultaneously translate any language being spoken to you to a language you naturally understand... 

Imagine knowing your genetic makeup to the extent that can help you manage a healthy lifestyle, help your doctor administer preventative medicine, and help nib emerging ailments in the bud... at the same time imagine the intrusion of knowing from inception what the likely cause of your natural death will be... is that too much information? Is that more than one may want to know? 

Perhaps, dealing with too much information will increasingly become our biggest headache! Imagine computers that programme themselves and others freely... robots which develop "personality"... I could go on and on ... So, if you think the iPad and Facebook have changed life as we knew it... well you ain't seen nothing yet! 

Of course, there is also a flip-side to all this... more automation, more miniaturization of electronic devices, the creation of electronic prosthesis, the interface of tissue with device, the symbiosis of man and machine... all this digital and cyber-babble, will increasingly put us all on the spot... it will become pertinent to ask ourselves, more than ever before... what is it that makes us human...? 

This is why I believe wholeheartedly in a Bohemian style of education which is not overly utilitarian or prescribed, in the need to invest in the humanities, in creativity, in unbridled innovation, in things of beauty, in things that uplift our hearts... and at the risk of sounding old fashioned... in things that feed our soul... yes… with goodness…

Humanity faces major challenges... in thirty-years most of central Africa will by default become uninhabitable due to global warming... and yet half of the world's youth will be born in Africa... so we can expect massive migration northward and southward... the southern Mediterranean coast will become very densely populated... more people will seek to migrate northwards towards Europe... 

...what we are witnessing now in the Mediterranean is merely an amuse bouche - not even an appetizer of what is in store down the line... 

Malta itself will most certainly hot up... fresh water increasingly becoming the most valuable commodity... and this means we need to make sure we have sustainable and affordable energy not only to cool our habitats but also to irrigate and sustain our farmland... 

and thank goodness for the decline in the average global birthrate... global population is likely to taper off at around nine billion, but, the number of people leading a western style middle-class lifestyle will increase by an additional 3 billion on top of the 1.5 billion there are at present… most of this growth happening in South East Asia…

Can you imagine how the demand for commodities will explode? Can you imagine the strain on global resources? We will need to find alternative sources of food, particularly protein... Well insects are earmarked as the most sustainable natural source of protein... anyone fancy a McHopper? 

On the flip side, Malta has a declining birthrate, an aging population, and an increasing influx of immigrants from both the north and the south... I can imagine how Maltese wedding albums will look like thirty years from now... but... will we be wise enough to adapt “Malteseness” in a timely fashion? Will we still recognize what it is that makes us Maltese? Will we still be known for our hospitality, for our tolerance, for our adaptability, for our Christian values... or will these be replaced by xenophobia and myopia? 

...and we haven't yet spoken of the impact of rising sea-levels on our little islands... which by default will become smaller... no doubt, land protection and reclamation is going to be big on our agenda in the decades to come... but will we just talk ourselves out of space?

Wow, the challenges ahead are both exciting and daunting... I am sure our little islands, the world and humanity will keep us all on our toes... I can keep talking on and on... identifying the challenges and opportunities ahead... the potential good, bad, and ugly... the choices we will all have to make in the brave new world that beckons... 

... but on a lighter note remember... in a world of change, when on this wonderful roller coaster, all you really need to know is yourself, you need to discover who you are, you need to hone in on your values... Why? because ultimately your values serve as your compass, as your measuring scales, as your north star... when navigating in the uncharted waters that lie ahead... 
…and I can tell you from my limited experience - although you might not realise this now - there's nothing like a good tertiary education to prepare you for what lies ahead in life…

do take time to step back and savour the privilege of being here…

live life to the full and seize every opportunity that comes your way… 

push yourselves and discover your limits… find out who you really are, and what you stand for, even at the risk of failure at times. 

There is no shame in failure if one does one best. Learn, move on, and grow!


At this point, allow me to say a few words of thanks, this being the last opportunity for me to do so as Rector in this setting.

I will not bore you with the significant achievements made in the past decade, nor will I labour on the initiatives that are underway which set the scene for a stronger, better University down the line… even if some are still merely holes in the ground as we speak…

I only mention these significant achievements to say that none of what has been achieved could have been done without formidable teamwork…  

I would like to thank my Pro-Rectors who I am pleased to introduce:

Prof. Joe Friggieri is the Pro-rector for Gozo;
Prof. Mary-Anne Lauri, as mentioned earlier, is the Pro-rector for Students and Institutional Affairs; 
Prof. Richard Muscat is the Pro-rector for Research and Innovation; and 
Prof. Alfred Vella is the Pro-rector for Academic Affairs. 

I thank them for their unstinting support and for sharing my vision, joys and frustrations… but most importantly for getting on with it, most times against the odds. I am truly proud and blessed to have served with them.

I would also like to thank the College of Deans who have always provided us with constructive feedback and advice whenever needed.

The University is a complex system, and I am indebted to my Secretariat, the Administrative Directors and administrative staff who work with unstinting dedication to keep the machine running as smoothly as is humanly possible given the limited resources in hand.  

Last but not least, I would like to thank my fellow academics. Thank you for bearing with me… some may feel wronged by my actions or omissions… I hope these too do not doubt my sincerity even if my actions at times may have been unsatisfactory or misguided. 

Before I close off my welcome speech this morning, I would like to appeal to the student and alumni community…

Always be proud of your Alma Mater – cherish its outstanding past and help build a brighter future. 

Without further ado, I welcome you all – academics, support staff, and local and international students - to a productive and fruitful year. 

Let’s live life to the full… remember… a world of opportunities beckons!

To view some photos of the Opening Ceremony visit the University of Malta Facebook page.


01 October 2015

Engineering Ph.D. Summer School


Prof. Dr Ing. Jonathan C. BORG from the Department of Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering of the University of Malta recently took part in the second week of the 2015 Ph.D. Summer School on Integrated Product Development (IPD) that took place at Otto-von-Guericke University in Magdeburg, Germany.    

A total of 10 Ph.D. candidates coming from Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, Lebanon and Venezuela participated in this second week.  The first week of the summer school was held in Malta in May 2015.  The IPD Summer School, setup by Prof. Borg together with Prof. Sandor Vajna from Magdeburg University, is an event endorsed by the Design Society.



30 September 2015

Biology students visit London


A group of 11 students from the Department of Biology recently visited the Natural History Museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew during a four-day trip to London. The trip, which coincided with the centenary of the Faculty of Science, was organised by the Science Students’ Society (S-Cubed) and was led by Dr Sandro Lanfranco from the Department of Biology, University of Malta.

The material covered during the trip was intended to complement the students’ studies in plant biology and evolutionary biology. The group spent three days at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, during which the students traced the evolution of amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs, birds, and mammals by visiting a wide range of exhibits, including the iconic dinosaur displays. The group also attended a cutting-edge virtual reality depiction of life in the early Cambrian period of geological time. 

The trip also included a very fruitful day at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew during which the students focused on the adaptations of plants to various climatic conditions. The sheer diversity of plants present at Kew enabled students to appreciate the immense variety of plant forms in different ecosystems.

Photo shows the biology group at the entrance to Kew Gardens.

Back row (left to right): Sandro Lanfranco, Anna Vella, Pamela Cuschieri, Desiree Chetcuti, Leanne Sciortino, Maria Masini, Maria Angela Gambin, Andrew Agius.

Front row: Sarah Farrugia, Amik Lanfranco, Gabriella Dalmas, Lucia Farrugia  


30 September 2015

New Courses in German for Staff and Students

Have you given a thought to what you miss by not knowing German? The Department of German is offering you the opportunity to learn German from scratch, or to improve your proficiency in the language.

The Department is launching a programme divided into two parts. The first part leads to a Certificate and is open to persons with no or little knowledge of German. You will be placed in the group  which matches your level.  

The second part leads to a Diploma and is open to staff and students who have a B1 level (CEFR) in the language.  

Further information can be obtained here.


18 September 2015


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