Mario Affatigato Coe College Student Submission


This story is one of several created by Coe College students in their Feature Story Writing class under the instruction of Dr. Jane Nesmith. Click here to learn more about Coe College’s Writing Program. buy tadalafil online

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Traveling the Distance

Mario Affatigato has traveled the distance to pursue his passion for physics. He has lived in three different countries – Italy, Venezuela, and the United States – and visited roughly 30 (he has lost count) other countries around the world. Through his travels, Mario shares with others his passion and knowledge for physics beyond his classroom at Coe College. He has used his liberal arts education background and this vast cultural diversity to his advantage to contribute more to his work and the society he lives in.

“I’m seeing this from a much more practical side. Many people will think of it as a philosophical thing. I view diversity in very concrete terms,” said Mario. “I think that you enrich yourself and your life by having more of these diverse experiences – by trying new foods, by meeting people in other countries, by finding out first hand.”

Going back to his Italian roots, Mario’s parents grew up and lived in Italy until the 1950s when Italy’s economy lagged after World War II. His father traveled to Venezuela in 1956 to find a job, and Mario’s parents have lived there since for 60 years.

“Most of my friends that I grew up with also had parents that were immigrants to Venezuela from Italy, Portugal, Spain, and so forth,” said Mario. “It was kind of like growing up in the middle of New York where there are a lot of people from many different countries and other cultures.”

Similarly to when his father moved to Venezuela at the age of 17 without knowing a word of Spanish, Mario moved to the United States to attend a boarding school in Florida at the age of 13 without knowing a word of English.

“My father came with me to make sure the school was alright, then a few days later he said ‘bye, bye’. I had asked my dad for this so I couldn’t even blame him,” said Mario. “Here I was in Florida knowing no English. It was kind of like jumping into the deep end of the pool not knowing how to swim.” Mario attended three years of high school in the U.S., but he moved back to Venezuela to finish high school and work for a year.

How Comics Led to Physics

One of Mario’s hobbies when growing up was reading comics. One of the comics discussed quantum mechanics, which is what initially got him interested in relativity and physics. It was during his senior year of high school that he realized he had a passion for physics.

“When the time came to go to college I said ‘Let me start as a physics major and see what happens’. I thought that I would change my mind, but I really enjoyed it,” said Mario. In 1986 he moved back to the U.S. to attend Coe College, which was his first time ever being in Iowa. “I had some good teachers and it basically went from there.”

Following his graduation from Coe in 1989 and earning his PhD at Vanderbilt University, Mario returned back to Coe to teach as a physics professor since the college fit him and his personality best. generic cialis

“Growing up I was always taught that the thing to be was to be an educated human being,” said Mario. “To be a person who had received enough education to understand the world and that the world is not limited to just physics or science even.” This is the value that Mario sees in receiving a liberal arts education. Now being a professor at Coe he can contribute to others’ understanding of the world.

Glass Research

Other than teaching physics at Coe College, Mario is actively involved in glass research. Mario explained that many people realize that glass in an important, everyday material, but do not realize how many glasses exist and that each type of glass has a very different and very specific function. A few examples include the four layers of glass on the average smartphone, glasses in batteries, art, architecture, medicine, cancer treatment, bone replacement, and the list goes on and on.


“There is so much glass in everything so we specialize in doing a lot of research on the material itself for various applications. There is great research right now where people are trying to make that glass better, thinner, more lightweight and still do all the great things.” Mario, alongside his colleagues, students and selected community members, explores this more hi-tech glass that is lesser-known.

Working with Cern

One of his current projects involves working with a glass that conducts electricity that is going to be used in a detector at CERN. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research is located in Geneva, Switzerland and they operate the largest particle physics lab in the world. An example of one of the many great accomplishes achieved by CERN physicists is discovering the Higgs boson, which is one of two fundamental particles.

CERN physicists contacted Mario and his student researchers to make a glass that was faster and that’s exactly what they did. CERN’s detector is now 200 times faster and in the next analysis Mario and his fellow researchers will be making the detector 1,000 times faster.

Other than completing research alongside Coe students, Mario also gives high school students in the area the opportunity to work on projects with them. In addition, the physics department hires two high school teachers from the Corridor, or sometimes from locations farther away, to participate in research every summer.

Beyond the glass research, the Physics Department at Coe College does a lot of community outreach by hosting and helping with many events. One of the most popular events that Mario and the other physicists host is the Playground of Science. Coe hosts this interactive science event once a year and the activities draw in about 1500 parents and children from the region.

Mario also shares his passion for physics with the Cedar Rapids community in other ways by participating in various events and organizations, such as the Eastern Iowa Science Fair, the Science Olympiad, and the Zach Johnson Foundation.

On living in Cedar Rapids

“I know this sounds a little corny, but I’ve really liked Iowa; I’ve really liked Cedar Rapids in particular,” said Mario. “I think it’s a much better place to live. It’s a much better corner of the world than people who live here even imagine. I don’t think they can fathom how nice this place is when compared to the world at large.”

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Story by Bridget Davis, Photos by Antonio Perez cialis pills 10 mg