Fabio Rocca

Professor emeritus of Politecnico di Milano


  • Year of nomination: 2011
  • Facility: Department of Electronics and Information [facility name no longer in use]
  • E-mail: fabio.rocca@polimi.it

"During his career, Professor Rocca has represented international excellence in different research sectors, contributing to the increasing prestige of Politecnico di Milano both in Italy and abroad, but without shirking organisational tasks such as, for example, the management of the Department of Electronics - which is remembered, by those who were there, as one of the most efficient. He has formed a research group which continues the research activities he started and developed in the fields of digital signal processing for oil prospecting, radar and sonar remote sensing, and the processing of images and sound.

In particular we want to underline the multidisciplinary nature of Professor Rocca's research activity which has introduced important innovations in various fields of signal processing.

In the field of oil prospecting, Professor Rocca has held prestigious positions such as the presidency of the Experimental Geophysical Observatory of Trieste and has received many important international awards including, just to name a few, the Honoris Causa Degree in Geophysics from the French Ministry of Education and the Lorraine Polytechnic University in 2001 and the Erasmus Lifetime Achievement Award from the European Association of Exploration Geophysicists in 2009. The reason given for this last recognition sums up the depth of the man very well: ┬źSo wide a spectrum of major scientific achievements as that seen from Fabio Rocca is rare in our profession.' In the Seventies, he pioneered computer contouring with faults, and multi-channel techniques for multiple suppression and spectral depth estimation of magnetic anomalies; in the Eighties, he focused on FK and residual migration, dip move-out and diffraction tomography; in the Nineties he moved onto seismic-while-drilling, and in the new century satellite interferometry┬╗.

In the field of satellite Radar Interferometry, he was certainly a pioneer, with the introduction of a new method of processing radar data, derived from the 'migration' techniques of geophysical data, which proved much more precise and efficient than the consolidated and until then undisputedly state-of-the-art technology existing in the 1980s. The importance of his activity in this sector is documented by his publications in Nature and Science, by numerous international awards and patents, and by the creation of two small spin-off companies which successfully employ around forty young engineers.

In the field of bandwidth compression of television signals, Prof. Rocca introduced the 'motion compensation' technique in 1968 which is the basis of all modern compression techniques such as MPEG-2. For this he won the prestigious Award for Technology of the Eduard Rhein Foundation in 1999. In 1983 he designed and coordinated the world's first experiment in digital satellite television transmission (SIR.IO) which, together with the rest of his activity in the sector, earned him the Italgas prize for Telecommunications in 1995.

Prizes, awards and prestigious assignments testify to an exceptional career, but Professor Fabio Rocca has also been a teacher of rare intelligence, ability and correctness for several generations of students and researchers who in Italy and abroad have had the good fortune to grow under his guidance."

[extract from the 2011 nomination statement]