Meet the researchers: Maria Vittoria Minitti

Maria Vittoria Minitti is a PhD student within RSL, ETH Zurich. We caught up with her to ask her about her experiences of working in robotics during a pandemic.

Position within the NCCR: Phd student at the Robotic Systems Lab

What is the main question that your research tries to answer?

Enhance mobile manipulation capabilities with under-actuated robots. In fact, mobile manipulators on underactuated platforms (.e. quadrupeds, inverted pendulums, etc…) have a potential to be more agile and effective than fully actuated manipulators (robotic arms).
However, their control is more challenging and still represents an open research area, which consists of allowing these systems to plan for both manipulation and balancing tasks.

What is your background? What did you study at university?

I have a bachelor degree in Industrial Engineering and followed that with a Master’s in Robotics and Automation Engineering.

What do you most enjoy about working in the field of robotics?

Robotics is a multi-disciplinary field that lets you work with many interesting engineering areas, such as programming, electronics, mechanics, mathematics, etc...

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What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day involves programming and doing hardware tests. Both the tasks must be performed very carefully, to avoid damaging the robot when deploying your code. Hardware tests are challenging, but they are also very enjoyable because you get the thrill of experiencing for real how your algorithms perform on a real machine.

There are many directions that a PhD in robotics can take you, do you know yet which route you want to follow?

I would like to continue in Academia

Many people are nervous about robotics and its future in society – do you share this concern?

Robots have a great potential to help people in disaster situations, such as earthquakes or pandemics, or in working areas such as construction robotics, where they can ease negative physical impacts of people’s work. Their employment in such scenarios will definitely have a positive impact for future society.

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Would you have any advice for someone who wanted to follow the same career path?

My advice is to work and study hard, and try to be open-minded towards all different engineering areas.

Finally, what do you do when you’re not hard at work in the lab?

I have many hobbies, in particular hiking, running or walking around the Swiss countryside. I also enjoy cooking and reading.

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