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Congratulations Christos Verginis!

On winning the European PhD Award award for the best Ph.D thesis in Europe

Published Sep 03, 2021

The European PhD Award is given annually in recognition of the best PhD thesis in Europe, in the field of Control for Complex and Heterogeneous Systems. This yearly competition is very tough due to an extraordinary quality of applications, therefore we give our greetings to Christos Verginis – winner of the award!

Congratulations on the award – which is also the first time it goes to a Swedish university. How does it feel?

"Thank you, it feels amazing, witnessing your hard work paying off."

"I certainly wasn't expecting it – the competition was very high; there are many Ph.D. students in top universities throughout Europe doing extraordinary work. It is a unique feeling to be among them, I am deeply honoured. I also feel very thankful to the organizing and grading committee, and of course, to my Ph.D. advisor, Dimos Dimarogonas, who guided me through this journey."

You won the award on your Ph.D. thesis "Planning and Control of Uncertain Cooperative Mobile Manipulator-Endowed Systems under Temporal Logic Tasks" – tell us about your research.

"My research focuses on the automatic deployment of robots towards the accomplishment of high-level, collaborative tasks. By "high-level" I mean tasks that can be described in a high-level natural-like language that can be easily interpreted by humans; for example, “periodically visit point A and then B every 20 seconds while avoiding dangerous areas and colliding with each other” or “collaboratively transport objects to an area upon request”, or “keep meeting in the rendezvous spot and go to the charging station when your battery is low”. Such tasks require the need for planning (what each robot should do or where it should go) as well as control (how to do it)."

In my research, I use tools from the automatic control, computer science, and robotics fields to develop intelligent algorithms for the robots to autonomously figure out what actions they need to take in order to accomplish the aforementioned tasks - and how to execute such actions. These algorithms are embedded on each robot separately, so each one of them calculates its actions on its own, possibly based on information obtained from its sensors, without relying on some central computer unit that controls all of them. This is a very important property since it enhances the robustness of the entire system – if one robot breaks down, the rest will keep going. Additionally, some of these algorithms are robust to model uncertainties. For example, we are able to make two robotic arms autonomously transfer an object somewhere without knowing the object’s or even the arms’ mass. I use mathematical tools to verify the correctness of the developed algorithms and, with the help of students, I implement them on actual robots (mobile, aerial and robotic arms)."

"Lately, I have been focusing on Artificial Intelligence tools in order to build algorithms that help the robots learn, from past experience, how to interact with the environment and how to achieve
optimal behaviors."

 What do you think set your thesis apart from the competition?

"I believe it was mainly the amount and quality of scientific results. On one hand, my Ph.D. thesis resulted in more than 20 publications, solving problems in the intersection of several different areas, like automatic control, robotics, and computer science. At the same time, many of these results focused on important and detailed problems, ending up in widely-acknowledged scientific journals and conferences, indicating the high quality of my work. The combination of mathematical verification with experimentation on real robots also played a big role!"

European Systems & Control PhD Thesis Award

Inter-disciplinary nature and many publications resulted in finalist placement