Volume 6, Edition 6 – October 2010
ATN in PROFILE
When academic Nunzio Motta arrived in Australia from Italy with his wife and four children in 2003 he wasn’t advancing his career but his experience of God providing for his life.
The ATN’s Nanotechnology network, has been a major beneficiary of Nunzio’s decision to do what the Catholic Church had asked of him: move to Australia.
Nunzio is established in Brisbane, at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) as Principal Research Fellow in the School of Engineering Systems; faculty of Built Environment and Engineering.
His research focuses on the special properties of very small nanotubes, each typically many many times smaller than say a human blood cell or the thickness of a human hair, to enhance the production of clean energy from the sun or to detect greenhouse gases in new generation of nano-sensors. This research generates global recognition and he is a foundation member of the fast-growing and respected ATN “nano-network.
In 1981 he had graduated with a “Laurea” (Physics) from the Università di Roma “la Sapienza” and in 1986 took a PhD (Physics) from Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa.
Since then he has been involved in studying the properties of materials, and in particular of semiconductors at the nano-scale. Looking at the formation of nano-crystals of Germanium on Silicon through the powerful “eye” of the Scanning Tunnelling Microscope, capable of visualizing single atoms on a surface, has been his major research interest in the University of Roma Tor Vergata, where he worked for 20 years.
In QUT now he is leading a group to use this instrument, recently funded by the ARC for the first time in Queensland, to boost research capacity towards energy and environmental applications.
The juxtaposition of being a leading figure in nano research which is at the absolute edge of the worldwide research frontier, with an experience of faith such that the Catholic Church sent Nunzio to Australia as a missionary naturally arouses curiosity, but it sits easily with Nunzio. He is equally committed and passionate about both. In fact it’s simple: “Both do good for mankind”, he says.
So why a missionary and why Australia? Nunzio speaks of turning for support to God, who gave him and his wife an appreciation of values and the possibility of loving one another in everyday life. Most importantly for Nunzio, Jesus Christ turned a marriage that had been in trouble into a strong and enduring relationship.
“In Rome we had one child when we were very young and then my work became my main commitment: I was driven by work, not by family. That led to an unhappy wife and I had a choice to make,” he says. “We sought support in the Catholic Church and I saw what Jesus Christ could do to help us. So my wife and I felt the desire to help others to meet him, as we had been helped. It changed our lives.”
In Brisbane Nunzio and his wife, with their children operate as missionaries across two parishes, participating in twice weekly bible meetings and also youth meetings. Nunzio stresses the church’s view that missionary work is not confined to third world countries and that he is not the only person Rome has sent to Australia to encourage a return to faith.
“No. It worries the church that people in countries such as Australia are so busy and have changing priorities so that their faith is being forgotten,” he says. “We are here to help revive that faith, to remind people what it means to have faith. That is why I was asked to come here. It is important work.”