Celebrating the art of science: A D+I interview with Daniele Tortorella
- November 23, 2022
- Daniele Tortorella, PhD
At Molecular Devices, we cultivate a culture where associates around the world are encouraged to bring their full, authentic selves to work. As R&D Systems Engineer Daniele Tortorella explains in this short Q&A, we spend so much time together, our colleagues become extended family. So it’s only natural that diversity and inclusion are integral to who we are as individuals and as an organization.
Recently, Daniele dreamed up a creative way to celebrate diverse, historic, female science icons through a uniquely commissioned art project. Learn more about how he brought his idea to life and the impact he hopes it makes on all associates that interact with the portraits.
D+I council members, Cheryl Bell and Daniele Tortorella.
Can you share where you were born and how you ended up in Austria?
I was born in a small village in the south of Italy to a family with no academic background. I managed to feed my curiosity and graduate in nuclear engineering in Italy, and later completed my PhD in particles physics at Technical University Munich (TUM) in Germany.
After graduating, I worked for a few years at a cutting-edge start-up that provided cryogenic tools for quantum physic and detectors applications. Around the same period, I met my incredible Austrian wife. I ended up in Austria following the big love.
When I arrived, I spent a few years as a scientific coordinator. In that role, I connected universities and R&D centric companies by winning EU funds and implementing interesting projects.
Five years ago, I joined Molecular Devices and the magical world of biology and life science instrumentations, happily working with a fantastic team as R&D systems engineer in the beautiful city of Salzburg.
How did the idea for creating the Women in Science artwork originate?
I wanted to combine the universal language of art with science and breakthrough discoveries associated with extraordinary personalities, each of them having also a strong diverse and inclusive background, as well as an inspiring story to tell.
Through three pieces of original artwork, we are able to celebrate Henrietta Lack (HeLa immortal cell-line, 1951), Rosalind Franklin (Photo 51, DNA structure, 1952) and Rita-Levi Montalcini (NGF, Nerve Growth Factor, 1956) every time we enter Molecular Devices.
I had the fortune to study in Rome, a rich, diverse city with probably the highest concentration of artwork in the entire universe. It was interesting to observe how good artwork had the same “wow” effect on visitors coming from over the world, regardless of ages, gender, religion or education. It confirms that art can be a powerful tool to spread a positive message on the uniting power of diversity and inclusion (D+I).
Why was it important to you to use this artwork as a tool to recognize diversity in the workplace?
At Danaher, two of our distinguished core behaviors are to “Instill Trust” and “Win as a Team.” I firmly believe that a precondition to achieving those targets is having a healthy D+I environment in the workplace.
Here at Molecular Devices Austria, we are a kind of extended family with only 75 associates, but remarkably, with more than 20 nationalities represented on site!
With the help of these inspirational artworks, I wanted to unveil to colleagues the importance of a diverse and inclusive culture. This state of being diverse and inclusive is not a given, but the result of years of dedication to the cause by our organization through our associate-led D+I Council which follows the framework of Danaher’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy.
My hope also was to encourage my extended family to stop, reflect, and ask the questions we often do when admiring a piece of art: Who are these icons of science? What is the whole, unobstructed story behind their success? How did their landmark discoveries affect the quality of my life? And from there on, let inspiration flow free!
How did you bring the project to life?
In another context, I met an eccentric artist named Günther Edlinger . He already has a name in Austria and in the past created some iconic portraits of Marilyn Monroe, J. F. Kennedy and Bob Dylan, just to mention few. So, I thought maybe he would agree to create custom artwork featuring our icons of science, as well.
In 2021, I went to Josef Atzler (our Salzburg site manager) to present the concept and ask for an adequate budget which he almost immediately agreed! Also, he shared with me that it was good timing because we were on the path to expanding our Austria site facility to make room for the Organoid Innovation Center – Salzburg. This freed up some walls to be filled with cool colors!
After obtaining financial support, I researched original papers or evidence associated with three female icons of science and identified some captivating images acquired with our Molecular Devices’ products to be freely placed in each artwork background.
Then, I visited the artist’s atelier. Honestly, at the beginning, he was hesitant to make customized artwork. After a couple of glasses of wine, talking around philosophy and this and that… he finally agreed and together we generated the first drafts.
What is next for you in your D+I journey?
I believe we have an obligation to spread even more of our positive D+I culture beyond the walls of Molecular Devices Austria and into the community around our site. My next vision is to support the local youth soccer teams for ages 6 to 12 years, maybe with a Molecular Devices-sponsored uniform featuring an empowering D+I message for our children.
Alongside art, sports are also powerful universal languages. Once a week, I’m on the pitch with my children to assist with their soccer training; an amazing experience! You can see how almost one hundred boys and girls are so naturally and lovingly generating what I call “an unbiased diverse and inclusive melting pot of joy.” I still need to ask for funding, but I have faith that I will receive some.
At Molecular Devices, I feel free to express myself and showcase creative ideas. At each level – from my direct supervisor, Felix Spira, up to our Executive D+I Council Sponsor and company, President Susan Murphy, I feel surrounded by the genuine commitment to promote, implement, and sustain a better, more diverse and inclusive world – where everyone feels that they belong.
[Podcast] Challenges of traditional cell line development and emerging technologies to help regulate monoclonality
Advancements in genetic engineering and synthetic biology have allowed…