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The condolences of IIT colleagues for the passing of Placido Illiano

A tragic news for the entire staff and for the Alumni of the Foundation

A tragic loss struck the whole IIT community a few days ago, with the passing of a former IIT researcher, Placido Illiano, who in 2015 received his PhD in the department of Neuroscience, under the guidance of Raul Gainetdinov.The Scientific Director Giorgio Metta, all the PIs and ex-colleagues of Neuroscience and all the IIT staff gather around the pain of the family for the premature loss of Placido.Here are some words from former colleagues who wished to share their memories to honor their friend.“Placido and I met for the first time in the Spring of 2013, and it immediately felt like I had known him for years. He had this extraordinary ability to create meaningful, genuine connections with people he had just met. Honestly, it was impossible not to notice him; as soon as he entered a room, his joviality would immediately change everyone’s mood. His signature greeting in the morning was “Buongiorno Dotto`! Caffe`?” (“Good morning Doc! Coffee?”), said with an unmistakable Neapolitan accent. It was impossible to resist the invitation. Placido’s positivity was contagious and touched everyone profoundly. After being around him for a while, people would start unconsciously using his same language. Many years later, several friends from IIT still greet me “Buongiorno Dotto`!” whenever I call them.Placido was a skilled and generous researcher, and I was privileged to work with him. Our IEEE ICRA 2015 paper (*), which was nominated as a finalist for the Best Medical Robotics Paper Award, would have simply not been possible without his support. I believe that that work is a fantastic display of how much he loved helping others, and how much he enjoyed getting out of his comfort zone to work with researchers in other fields. At the time, I was investigating techniques to control laser-tissue interactions for robotic surgery. Because I was classically trained as an engineer, I had no idea how to work with biological tissue. Placido patiently taught me laboratory protocols to prepare, process, and extract data from tissue specimens. I still use many of his protocols to this day, and now that I lead my own research lab, I teach the same protocols to my own students. I will always be indebted to Placido for sharing his knowledge with me and for doing it in a way that was accessible for someone with no formal training in the life sciences like me. I once recall saying to him “Thanks to you, I feel like a real scientist now.” He helped me grow into a better researcher, and I will always be grateful for that. 

Besides being a colleague, Placido was a loving, supporting friend – one with whom I was fortunate to share the many ups and downs of graduate school and postgraduate life. I will miss him dearly.”(*) (LORIS FICHERA, Boston, Massachusetts. Assistant Professor of Robotics at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, Massachusetts).

“Thank you Placido: thank you for having being by our side and giving us your friendship and your smile. Thank you for helping us in difficult times with your laughter and your optimism. Thank you Placido: thanks for reminding us to never give up. That every brick we add to the wall of life can help someone, someday, to be a better person.”(FEDERICO TINARELLI: Germany, scientist Neuropharmacology at Evotec.ERICA BARINI: Germany, Senior Scientist in neuroscience at Abbvie.)


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