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Arian Pasquali (LIAAD), João Silva (CSIG), José Ricardo Andrade (CPES), Leonel Carvalho (CPES), Paulo Ferreira (SAAF), Filipe Borges Teixeira (CTM), Kelwin Fernandes (CTM)

Serious Thinking

"I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m an Englishman in New York”. As if being a woman wasn’t enough already, I was also a marine biologist." Ana Paula Lima (CRAS)

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Serious Thinking


By Ana Paula Lima*


Since I joined INESC TEC, I have had to answer this question almost weekly and I can only think of those memes that convert into an image the idea that we and others have of our academic or professional activity.

The truth is that I am used to being in environments that are supposedly inhospitable for a marine biologist. 

With my mind influenced since childhood by documentaries about the underwater world, books such as “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, the movie “The Little Mermaid” and a deep admiration for Jacques-Yves Cousteau, I set off to Algarve in order to enrol in the Marine Biology and Fisheries graduation course.

Over the months, the romanticised image of what my future could be as a marine biologist thinned out, bringing about little by little the choice for the most commercial field of the course: Aquaculture.

Homesickness made me look for an internship in Porto. After analysing all options, I chose ICBAS (Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar). The laboratory of Applied Physiology was my second home for eight years and the fresh water mussel Anodonta cygnea my BFF.  

Internship, Master’s degree and PhD. Now what? Hoping to do more applied types of research, I started my five-year journey in i3S (Instituto de Engenharia Biomédica). On the first day, 10 AM, Wednesday, the 1st of April, after the weekly meeting, I had to introduce myself to about 80 of my “engineer” colleagues and they must have thought that it was a prank for April Fools’ Day. “What is this marine biologist doing in Materials Engineering?” What I did was work hard on a very exciting project that to me, being new to biomaterials, sounded a lot like “Science Fiction”. It consisted of creating smart matrices inspired by the tissues of sea urchins. This was followed by a project related to anti-inflammatory coatings that drove me away from marine biotechnology. 

In the beginning of 2017, chance and the persistent call of the sea brought me to INESC TEC, more precisely to CRAS (Centre for Robotics and Autonomous Systems), to manage the StrongMar project, as well as other projects regarding the sea. Once again: “I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m an Englishman in New York”. As if being a woman wasn’t enough already, I was also a marine biologist. However, let me tell you that I was very well received and quickly became a member of the robotics gang. Once again here I am, adapting to a new environment, interiorizing concepts and fascinated by the “toys” built here. Therefore, I am evolving and living up to the versatility so characteristic of a Gemini.   

Do you want to know funny stories and the so-called gossip that happen in this facility by the entrance of ISEP? I’m sorry, but you won’t get it from me, in part, because the environment lived here can’t be explained. I will only say that whoever opens the door of the CRAS Laboratory at ISEP will find a complex mixture of actuators, sensors and algorithms that prosper in unpredictable resources, chaotic even. More precisely: an autonomous system!!!

*Collaborator at CRAS (Centre for Robotics and Autonomous Systems)