December 10, 2015I am happy to accept the task assigned to me by the Rector Magnificus. However, before performing this task, I would like to address a few personal words to you.
You were born in Naples, Italy. And now you're standing here in Groningen, the Netherlands. Arguably, Groningen has not much in common with naples, except that people drive their bicycles in Groningen as they do cars in Naples: with creative use of the traffic rules. So a sensible question to ask is what brought you here, and why you are dressed in a suit and performing these amusing but well-coordinated bows to us.
In order to answer that question we have to go back five years in time, to an Italian city nicknamed *la rossa, la grassa*: Bologna. What not many people know is that for a while you and i lived in the same street, Via Nosadella, right in the historical center of Bologna. At the time I was building my new team in Groningen. With your computer science background I knew you would make an excellent member of the group. So the job interview that brought you to Groningen was conveniently conducted in a coffee bar in the same Via Nosadella. And I made you an offer---as they say in southern Italy---that you couldn't refuse. And indeed, you didn't.
Fast forward to your first months in Groningen. You were joining us daily for lunch, slowly getting used to eating ham-and-cheese sandwiches, instead of freshly-made *tortellini in brodo* or *pizza al taglio*. When you informed your family in Italy about the food situation in the Netherlands you were sent a large box of Italian food every month: hand-made pasta, tartufi, extra-virgin olive-oil, and other delicacies. The good news was that you often shared this with us while showing off your cooking skills, in particular those that contributed to your *pasta al forno*.
In the eventful years that you were here in Groningen, you were working on generating text from logic-based meaning representations, by first developing a large annotated corpus of texts followed by ingestigating novel approaches for generating text from meaning representations. Soon it became clear how hard this problem was. Many problems you have solved, and many new ones arised, and I think that is a sign of good science. In fact, much of your research has been published and cited by many scholars around the world already. So I was confident you would easily find a follow-up job, and indeed you're now a postdoc in France.
Your computer science expertise was very useful and appreciated in the group. But there were some other qualities that made you a special person. I already mentioned that people in Napels have creative skills. Perhaps that's where your imagination is coming from. You had a big influence on *wordrobe*, the game with a purpose that we designed together early in the project. Your graphical design abilities gave us beautiful logo's for the software that we developed and the conferences that we organized. You made a wonderful one-minute video about our research that nearly won a prize. And you banned bullet points from your presentation slides and applied the principle of minimalism to them as well. I myself was influenced by these ideas and look at the result today: no bullet points, not even slides!
One more thing. The stereotypical computer scientist can perhaps be described as an anti-social geek. But you are definitely not one of them, even though you play a lot of minecraft (some say too much) and entertain yourself by memorizing hundreds of cryptical linux commands. Your social engagement with people from other strands of research has put you in touch with various disciplines, including journalism studies, social media research, and legal informatics. This is exceptional, and tells a lot about your personality.
Dear Valerio, I tried to generate this speech from a logical form, but I can hardly find any logical coherence in my laudatio. So it is probably a good idea for me, for you, and the audience, to start the preparation of the final notes. Very soon you will become doctor, and I have the great honor to be the first to congratulate you.
[*When this is finished, the primary supervisor puts his cap back on, invites everyone to stand and, when everyone has risen, speaks the following words*]
By virtue of the powers vested in us by Dutch law, in accordance with the decision of the College of Deans of this University, I, Johannes Bos, confer on you, Valerio Basile, the title of doctor and all the rights associated by Dutch law or custom with a PhD degree at the University of Groningen. Do you as a Doctor promise to act in accordance with the Netherlads Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice?
The PhD candidate replies: I promise.
Please take your seats again.
Now that I have performed the task assigned to me, let me be the first to congratulate you on your PhD degree and to address you as Doctor.