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Early career award to Jana Tumova

From Robotics: Science and Systems foundation (RSS)

Jana Tumova, Associate Professor at The Division of Robotics, Perception and Learning (RPL)
Published Dec 07, 2021

We talked to Jana Tumova, who won the RSS early career award which acknowledges the outstanding accomplishments and exceptional potential of early-career researchers in robotics. Congratulations, Jana!

Congratulations! How does it feel to get this recognition in robotics?

"Thank you, it feels wonderful! I am honoured and grateful to receive this award. And I am truly thankful for the hard work of my fantastic research group and the support of my mentors and brilliant collaborators."

Briefly, can you tell us a bit about your research?

Interaction between robots and people at RPL (credits: Christian Pek).

"My research revolves around the question: How can we ensure that autonomous systems behave as expected? I specialize in fusing traditional decision making, planning and control algorithms for autonomous robots with formal methods — a family of techniques for the rigorous specification, analysis, and verification of software and hardware systems. This approach allows us to automatically turn a variety of complex tasks, constraints, and Spatio-temporal preferences into a robotic behaviour with safety and performance guarantees."

What do you think are the most exciting future research directions within your research field?

"In my opinion, one of the most exciting research challenges relates to safety, robustness, and performance guarantees for autonomous systems that rely on machine learning. Machine learning has gained a lot of attention in the past years and has proven incredibly powerful. However, it comes with well-known drawbacks that we aim to address with formal analysis and verification techniques.

Another exciting direction in formal methods for robot planning focuses on systems that interact with people. While we would like to keep rigorous guarantees, these guarantees cannot be boolean anymore; a robot is not safe or unsafe. It is safe or hazardous to a certain extent. Instead of notions of provable correctness and "perfect" safety, we need to move towards risk awareness."

What excites you the most about research in robotics?

"I love that robotics research is diverse and brings together ideas from many fields. I enjoy that it progresses so fast, but some of its fundamental problems have been unsolved for decades. I appreciate that it requires both solid theory and high-quality engineering, that things need to work for real. That is what makes it so difficult and so exciting!"

"This award acknowledges the outstanding accomplishments and exceptional potential of early-career researchers in robotics.” It is given to one or more people annually and the last time this was given to a researcher in Europe was in 2015, since then it was only US or Canada.

The Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS) conference
The award comes with an opportunity to give an Early Career Keynote at RSS conference. See Jana's talk on YouTube .