"To see a World in a Grain of Sand"

William Blake - from "Auguries of Innocence"

Saverio Cambioni, M.Sc.

My research focuses on:

  • the formation, evolution and habitability of terrestrial planets;
  • instrument data-fusion to maximize the scientific return of space missions.

I apply machine learning and Bayesian statistics towards the creation of physical and chemical surrogate models and interpretation of ground-, spacecraft- and laboratory-based data.

My mission is to contribute to the understanding of how the young Earth became a habitable planet and, more in general, what are the conditions required for planet/moons to become habitable (home and abroad). My long term career goal is to serve as Principal Investigator (PI) of a mission seeking for life in the ocean of Jupiter's moon Europa.

Along with my planetary science research, I am interested in space policy and the effect of scientific discoveries on everyday life.

Why Machine Learning (ML)?

ML algorithms complement human skills; they support problem-solving in multi-dimensional parameter space and are able to handle big data, generalizing response functions from a set of example sources. A posterior analysis by the human operator, however, is still required to interpret and put into context machine-based discoveries.

My passion for space science

It was during high school when our instructor was speaking about Kant. Like a typical teenager, I thought that my point of view was the only one that mattered and was uninterested. She focused on a passage from the Critique of Practical Reason: "Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me." I started wondering of Kant spending his nights looking at the sky, as I still do when I go camping. Kant contemplated the vastness of the mind, and found it reflected in the sky; specularly, I am interested in the mechanism of the Universe, because our complexity of mind and morality are as rich as it. With this and other things, I studied Space Engineering in college. However, the more often and steadily I reflected upon the "how", I did not understand the "why". That was the start of my PhD studies in Planetary Science.

Scientific breakthroughs can deeply influence the "moral law" of a society, affecting spheres of human life apparently very distant from science, such as religion. The work of wonderful minds, such as Copernicus and Galileo, indicated and still indicate the right path to reject deviant sides of anthropocentrism. The guide that science offers, however, is very human: sometimes trembling, as the life of Galileo majestically exemplifies; often incomprehensible, unless one is expert in a field; not always satisfying, because of its cumbersome processes and evolving answers. But science remains the only right process to understand how nature works and our role in it.