USI's 28th Dies academicus celebrated


Institutional Communication Service

4 May 2024

The 28th Dies academicus of Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) was held on Saturday, 4 May 2024, at the West Campus Lugano Aula magna. The event opened with a welcome address by USI Rector Luisa Lambertini, followed by a welcome from the President of the University Council, Monica Duca Widmer and a speech by State Councillor Marina Carobbio Guscetti. After the keynote by Shane Legg, co-founder and Chief AGI Scientist of Google DeepMind, interviewed by Mirko Bischofberger, the customary honours were handed over: the Honorary Doctorate awarded to Prof. Janet Currie, the Award for Best Teaching to Prof. Carla Mazzarelli, the first USI Alumni Award to Legg himself and the USI Medal to Arch. Mario Botta.

During the opening ceremony, USI Rector Luisa Lambertini began her speech by celebrating the growth of the Università della Svizzera italiana under the banner of responsibility. She emphasised the attention paid to educational pathways, which has allowed the institution to be chosen as a "pathway to the future" by many young people. The student community continues to grow, and USI takes the responsibility of providing a quality education very seriously.

Thanks to intensive and relevant work on the research and development front, in 2023 USI exceeded CHF 30 million in external funding obtained, highlighting a leading role in advanced technologies. The Rector also recalled the recent restart of negotiations with the European Union for access to Horizon Europe research funds, emphasising the importance of this programme for the scientific advancement and international prestige of USI and the Swiss university system.

During her welcome address, Monica Duca Widmer, the President of USI Council, highlighted the recent achievements and significant milestones of the University. She mentioned the exceptional performance of the students in the federal examinations from the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences. She also acknowledged the anniversaries of the Faculty of Informatics, the Faculty of Theology in Lugano, and the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IDSIA USI-SUPSI). Furthermore, she emphasised the financial challenges ahead and the importance of supporting innovation and collaboration between the universities and the industry. Lastly, she reiterated the critical role of university education and research in promoting peace and democracy in a world filled with conflict.

According to State Councillor and DECS Director Marina Carobbio Guscetti: "Universities must remain first and foremost innovative hubs of scientific culture, fostering critical thinking and encouraging a deep understanding of the context in which we operate. They should be able to identify the relationship between science and society and aim to transfer the knowledge they acquire outside the academic context." 

"I hope that Università della Svizzera italiana, together with other universities around the world, can continue to be a hub of liveliness and intellectual investment, open and in constant dialogue with the region, oriented towards the wellbeing of the population and - more generally - of humanity as a whole. Only in this way can research and knowledge transfer gain a local and, at the same time, universal public cultural value, oriented towards dignity and the common good, among the most precious things we have."

The keynote of the 28th Dies academicus was delivered by Shane Legg, USI Alumnus, co-founder and Chief AGI Scientist of Google DeepMind, who was interviewed by science disseminator Mirko Bischofberger. In his speech, the researcher and entrepreneur from New Zealand retraced the beginnings of his career in Ticino and explained to the audience the current advances and frontiers in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), providing an overview of Google DeepMind's current projects and emphasising a future full of challenges, but also of expectations.


As per tradition, the Dies Academicus was the occasion for the Università della Svizzera italiana to bestow its honours.

Janet Currie, Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University and co-director of Princeton's Centre for Health and Wellbeing received an Honorary Doctorate in economics with the following distinction: "a pioneer in the economic analysis of children's development and physical and mental wellbeing, a rigorous analyst of the impact of public policy and environmental threats."

The Award for Best Teaching was presented to Carla Mazzarelli, Full Professor at USI Academy of Architecture, "for the quality of her teaching".

The first USI Alumni Award was presented to Shane Legg "for his outstanding career achievements".

Promoter and founder of the USI Academy of Architecture, Architect Mario Botta, received the Università della Svizzera italiana Medal for his significant contribution to the University's development.

Art installation Door

The theme of artificial intelligence and machine learning was chosen for this 28th Dies academicus. During the celebrations, the artistic installation Door was displayed in the West Campus Lugano Aula magna, a portal capable of reading the sense of movement when crossed and moving in the same direction. The installation, designed by two USI Academy of Architecture students, encourages to reflect on the relationship between human beings and the built environment. The machine-learning algorithms record data from the experiences of previous visitors, and this data is used to establish a unique and empathic relationship between the visitor and the portal. This relationship takes the form of a particular "dance" generated by the "pleasantness" of movement. Dance is a fundamental element of architecture, especially in its design of movement in space.

Musical interludes

The ceremony was accompanied by musical interludes in collaboration with the brass quintet of Scuola universitaria di musica del Conservatorio della Svizzera italiana.

Photos of the ceremony can be downloaded free of charge from the following link: