Miguel is in the 4th Year of his PhD in the Personal Robotics Lab, Intelligent Systems Group, and is supervised by Dr Yiannis Demiris.
Where did you do your undergraduate degree, and what was it?
I did my undergraduate degree here in the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department. I did what is now Electronic and Information Engineering with a year abroad, which I spent in France.
Why did you choose to study at Imperial College London?
I think Imperial was always my first option, it was the combination of it being a really cool technical place and being internationally well known. It is a place where things are happening and we are pushing frontiers.
I stayed on to do my PhD as I did two undergraduate research programmes with Dr Demiris, and at the end of the second one he asked if I wanted to stay on for a PhD. I really enjoyed the research programmes, they were really fun. I felt that the undergraduate degree was too short for me and I wanted a bit more, so it felt natural to stay on for the PhD.
Could you summarise your PhD Project:
I am developing a robotic tutor for use by children in wheelchairs. My main contribution is to use stochastic context-free grammars (an algorithm to structure repetitive tasks) to model a child's driving skills in such a way the robotic tutor can propose personalised driving activities for each child.
What have you enjoyed most about your PhD?
One of things I am really happy about is my colleagues. I know its clichéd but they are really smart and it’s really fun to have conversations with them, not just scientific which is also useful, but about everything. I have talked with past PhD students and I ask what do you miss and they always say the people. The team is fantastic -we are all very friendly and we socialise a lot as well.
Also, I get to play with robots. I am a geek, and I am fortunate enough that I have equipment which most people cannot dream of, and I use them on a day to day basis which is so much fun. I also get to travel to conferences, and I have been able to visit lots of different places.
What’s it like living and studying in London?
I am of the opinion that London is the best city in the world, it is the most international and vibrant city you could find, and you can’t find this combination of people from all over the world anywhere else. There are so many thing to do and it’s such a big city that even though I have been here 10 years, I still get lost!
Imperial is also one of the most international universities in the UK, it’s so varied and I think that’s a really great thing. The only thing is that London is expensive, and Imperial doesn’t really have the campus feeling but I think the campus experience is really overrated, I prefer the city experience.
What are you hoping to do after your PhD?
I am writing up at the moment so I have been focusing on that, but I have interviews coming up, and I have lots of options, so I am saying yes to everything and I will choose when I am ready.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to study a PhD here?
I think the interviews are fundamental, it’s not just you being tested - you need to test whether you should come here. I have been incredibly lucky with my PhD and my supervisor, but you need to make sure you get as much information as you can possibly get about the people you will be working with, the supervisor etc. and be as sure as you possibly can that this is the right place for you.