Campus and Community

Técnico alumnus wins “Top Talents Under 25” award

Luís Rita was the only Portuguese distinguished this year with this award that recognizes five young talented people in eight categories.

The Técnico alumnus Luís Rita was recently distinguished as one of the 40 best young talents in the world under 25 years old. The “Top Talents Under 25” is an award for outstanding young people worlwide. Besides recognizing the research career of competitors, it also distinguishes the way they disseminate knowledge. Luís Rita won the award in the digital category.

“I think that I can improve people’s lives and I have a lot of fun doing it. I’m 24 years old and I found out what I want to do in the future: Data Science for Human Health”, says Luís Rita.

The selection of award winners is conducted in a thorough way and brings together some of the most promising young people worldwide in various areas of research. The winners stood out “for thinking outside the box”, and because “they dared to challenge the ‘status quo’ and improve not only their lives but the lives of those around them”.

“I have always tried to publish my recent work online”, says the Técnico alumnus. “If on the one hand it is true that it turns out to be the most effective way to preserve my work, on the other hand providing it to the general public is a guarantee that it can be the basis for more complete and more valuable versions”, says Luís Rita.

After completing his master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering at Técnico, Luís Rita went to Imperial College of London in October 2019, where he is doing a Master of Research (MRes). In March 2020, he started writing for Towards Data Science. Since then, the Técnico alumnus has been publishing the works he developed at Técnico and Imperial, namely the 3 main works that earned him aplace in the Top Talent Under 25: Community Finding with Applications on Phylogenetic Networks, Machine Learning for Building a Food Recomendation System and Using Deep Learning to Identify Cyclists’ Risk Factors in London.

In the work “Machine Learning for Building a Food Recommendation System”, the Técnico alumnus tackled the notion that there are a number of cancers “that can be prevented through a healthy diet”. Throughout the project, Luís Rita developed an web application (app) that is based on two large collections of recipe data. It was developed a web application able to predict the ingredients from an image, suggest new combinations and retrieve the cuisine the recipe belongs, along with a score for the expected number of negative interactions with antineoplastic drugs.

“In the beginning, I didn’t have the urge to disseminate my work because I didn’t understand its importance. But then a friend of mine made me realise of its importance and everything changed”, he recalls. “Now, after many errors and attempts, I do it more naturally. I hope that my projects reach the greatest possible number of people, but it is essential to have the support of as many people as possible. I can expect nothing if people aren’t given a reason to believe. I believe, and I try to pass this idea”, he adds.

Luís Rita considers his experience at Imperial College “amazing”. “One thing that makes a MRes different is its heavy practical component. Theoretical classes complement the practical work and not the other way around. I sincerely think that this will be the future of teaching”, highlights the Técnico alumnus.

Luís Rita has well-defined plans for the next 3 years: “I will be doing my PhD “Computational health-promoting recipe personalization and generation using graph deep learning” at Imperial College London, under the supervision of Professor Kirill Veselkov and Michael Bronstein. He doesn’t know what he will do next, but he always “wanted to work for a health tech company in San Francisco”.

“Técnico was very important to me, not only in terms of academic training, but also in terms of work capacity that I was able to develop during 5 years, during my master’s degree”, he stresses. “I am now in a position to compare my academic journey at Imperial and Técnico, and they were both excellent”, says Luís Rita.