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Periodic Report Summary 1 - ORCHA (Order/Chaos: Genealogy of Two Concepts in the Culture of European Mathematical Physics)

The ORCHA project is devoted to the historical and philosophical analysis of the evolution of the concepts of order and chaos in mathematical physics from the Enlightenment to the early 1930s. The project is neatly divided into two parts. The first part, carried out at MIT deals with the emergence of the modern concept of order and concentrates on the case of the proof of stability of the solar system in physical astronomy. The second part investigates the development of the concept of chaos in the second half of the 19th century, with special attention to the interplay between Ludwig Boltzmann’s statistical mechanics and Henri Poincaré’s approach to celestial mechanics. This interplay paved the way to George David Birkhoff’s theory of dynamical systems and his ergodic theorem (1931).
I have hitherto found no unexpected problems and the research is proceeding as planned. Derivable D1 (journal paper) has been completed ahead of schedule (mouth 18). In fact, I have submitted not one, but two papers before the originally planned deadline. One of these papers, concerned with the stability of the solar system, has been positively reviewed by Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences (impact factor: 0.500, SJR: 0.170) and will be revised soon for publication. At MIT I found a very collaborative and stimulating environment, which supported my research in the most effective way and put me in the best conditions to finalize my Deliverables. Deliverable D2 (conference presentation) has also been accomplished more successfully than the original plan. I presented a paper related to my MSCA project at the 7th International Conference of the European Society for History of Science and I also delivered a plenary lecture on that occasion. I have slightly changed Deliverable D3. Instead of presenting at the 2016 HSS Annual Meeting, I delivered a lecture at the 2016 PSA Biannual Meeting, which occurred jointly with the HSS conference. The reason for the change is that the paper fitted best in the PSA program. However, the audience is the same. Furthermore, I will present a paper at the 25th International Congress of History of Science and Technology (Rio de Janeiro, 2017). The ICHST conference takes place only every five years and will ensure an even larger audience to my project.
As far as research content is concerned, I have slightly modified my methodological approach, which now leans more clearly toward the study of mathematical practices. This change, which does not represent a radical break in the research direction, is the result of methodological discussions at MIT (training objective TO2). The new methodological framework has facilitated my research work in the last month and is largely responsible for the fact that the Deliverables are ahead of schedule.
In fulfilling training objectives TO2 and TO3 (part B, section B2), I cooperated with various research groups at MIT and Harvard. In this first year, I participated in various seminars and reading groups, in which I had multiple occasions to disseminate my work and to obtain fruitful feedback. I also developed professional and teaching skills. As for the former, I attended a number of workshops especially dedicated to improve professional skills at various stages of the academic career. These workshops are part of my training objective TO4 (part B, section B2). The activities have covered a wide spectrum of topics ranging from grant writing and publication to network building. Below, I list the workshops I have attended.

• Building your Personal and Professional Network, 20 January 2015
• Basics of Grant Writing, 25 February 2015
• Maximizing the Postdoctoral Period, 18 March 2015
• Effective CVs for the Academic Job Search 30 October 2015
• Getting Published, 30 November 2015
• The Art of Behavioral Interviewing, 15 September 2016
• Career Paths for PhDs and Postdocs: A Panel Discussion, 19 September 2016

As for teaching skills, I participated in the Kaufman Teaching Program at MIT in order to fulfill another important part of my training objective TO4, i.e. the completion and refinement of my teaching experience. This program consists in a series of dedicated workshops oriented to improve and enlarge teaching skills at university level. The program included the following subjects:

• Introduction to Research on How People Learn
• Designing a Course and Constructing a Syllabus
• Constructing Effective Problem Sets and Exam Questions
• Planning and Facilitating a Class Session
• Interactive Teaching and Active Learning
• Teaching Inclusively
• Enhancing Learning with Educational Technology
• Developing a Teaching Philosophy Statement

The program also included a short teaching session, compulsory to obtain the final certificate and the letter of presentation from the Dean for Graduate Education. I have benefitted enormously from the participation in the program and I am now better equipped to organize, conduct, and evaluate teaching activities.
Although most of the outreach activities of the project are scheduled for the return phase, I have already started to disseminate the project results to the larger public. In particular, have begun a blog on my experience as a MSCA fellow. The idea is to share practical information that can be useful to potential applicants as well as to new MSCA fellows. The address of the blog is the following: I also published a project-related article in Giornale di Astronomia an Italian journal with large readership in the general public and especially among secondary school teachers. Another important outreach activity planned is the publication of a popularization volume. I am in contact with an Italian publisher to prepare such a publication in 2017.

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