Manuel Serra Nunes, Electrical and Computer Engineering alumnus, won SPR’s award – Best master’s thesis 2020 – for his work “Action-conditioned disentanglement of agent and objects for video prediction in robotic tasks”.
“This award helped me to understand that if we like what we do and stay curious, sooner or later, we end up being successful”, says the young engineer, who highlights the importance of this award “not only because it recognises the hours we spend working on our master’s theses, but also it encourages us to go a little further”.
The awarded thesis was developed at the Institute for Systems and Robotics (ISR-Lisboa) and supervised by professors José Santos-Victor and Plinio Moreno López. The Técnico alumnus focused on predicting video frames using deep learning models.
Manuel Serra Nunes master’s thesis stood out among 7 applications. The jury was composed professor Jorge Dias (president), University of Coimbra, professor José Barata, Nova University Lisbon, and professor Pedro Neto, University of Coimbra.
“I was fortunate to have professor Plinio Moreno and professor José Santos-Víctor as my supervisors, who allowed me to have the necessary space to do my work, make mistakes, and learn from them”, he stresses. Manuel Serra Nunes also highlights the support of the PhD alumnus and researcher Atabak Dehban, “he was always available to answer my questions and discuss ideas, and set the bar high. I have learned a great deal from him”.
With regard to the work itself, the alumnus believes that “perhaps the fact of having invested a lot of time in making the thesis understandable, almost in its entirety, for anyone – engineer or not – and including sections linked by a common theme”, may have contributed to the jury’s decision.
After graduating, Manuel Serra continued to do research at ISR-Lisboa for a few months, trying to decide what to do next: pursuing a PhD or entering the job market. “I wasn’t sure so I ended up choosing the second option, in order to gain new perspective and understand the world outside academia”, he shares. However, he does not exclude the possibility of pursuing a career in research.
The “SPR Master’s Dissertation Award” is delivered annually and aims to stimulate innovation, rigour in research and disseminate scientific works in the various fields of robotics.
Last year, two Técnico alumni were distinguished by the SPR.