Rita Costa (SCOM), Estela Cunha (CPES) and Eduardo Castro (CTM)

Rita Costa (SCOM)

“During October, and in addition to all the work she had in progress – videos and design of new visual identities (e.g., Strategic Meeting, Autumn Forum, etc.), among others – Rita designed 31 illustrations in 31 days, so that INESC TEC could celebrate ‘Science Art October’ for the first time – an annual initiative that disseminates several topics related to science through illustrations. Rita carried out all this work while working on her PhD thesis. Rita has been a very important member of SCOM and thanks to her creativity, proactive attitude and high-quality work, we’ve been able to reach higher levels that we hadn’t explored yet, in terms of Science Communication”.

– SCOM Coordinators

Rita: you designed 31 illustrations in 31 days, so that INESC TEC could, for the first time, celebrate “Science Art October”. Could you tell us more about this initiative?

There’s an initiative called “Inktober” that presents a list of words and brings together illustrators, artists, and tattooists, who associate themselves to this campaign and make a drawing each day of October. Eventually, artists dedicated to specific areas ended up launching initiatives with the same premise, but linked to a specific area, like “Sci-Art October”. The initial idea emerged as a scientific illustration based on biology, but eventually reached new dimensions, using the term “scientific” as the main motto. INESC TEC is a great example of an entity that embraces projects from various areas, perfect to be illustrated. I try to participate in “Inktober” each year, but finding the time required it’s harder than it seems. This year, I started to draw, and I immediately thought “doing this with our projects in mind could be a great idea!”.

The illustrations depict projects led by INESC TEC, or endeavours in which the Institute is involved, and they showcase said projects’ results (e.g., robots). What is the biggest challenge of communicating science through images? How do you describe the creative process?

The biggest challenge is untangling things. When addressing these projects, we must identify their own language – often academic -, which explains all the aspects of said projects; as if it were a lump of yarn. The challenge is to pick one of the ends and untangle the lump, in order to understand what the core point is, and how to translate it into an image. There are projects where the premise is clearer and simpler to show – like a robot that will perform specific tasks; there are others where the premise may be clear, but there is no physical object to illustrate, e.g., projects related to computing or cybersecurity. In these cases, one must think as a child; in this sense, being a fan of animations is quite useful: one must find easily identifiable elements that create a visual aid to understand the projects.

Which aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?

My work demands watching and observing many things. I watch a lot of cartoons and I explore illustrations, pictures, and videos. This part is what I find most fascinating: creating a moodboard of images to reach one that illustrates what our researchers and scientists have developed. Another crucial aspect to this type of work, which sometimes makes a huge difference, is having the researchers’ explanation – in this case, I am not talking about an abstract of a publication, but rather about interacting, asking questions, and trying to understand extremely complex things, to communicate in a simple way.

How do you comment on this nomination?

First, I’d like to thank those who acknowledged my efforts in this initiative, which was quite gratifying; I’d also like to thank my colleagues for helping me to achieve all the goals during that period, and for helping me to choose the right projects (in record time!). Then, I’d like to highlight the word “motivation” (and to send a message to INESC TEC researchers): keep developing science and technology, and I’ll be here to design what you achieve, so that your results are acknowledged – in text, as prototypes and as drawings.

Estela Cunha (CPES)

“The recent publication of the European IP Helpdesk case study ‘Dual licensing in academic open-source software: Synergistic effects between open-source licensing and commercial software development & exploitation’, with Estela as the main author, was the conclusion of a whole work/learning process about innovation ecosystems, focusing on the Academia – Industry interface. Estela has been performing her operations management duties at the Technology Licensing Office (SAL) with tremendous rigor and drive, being responsible for many of the positive developments of SAL. Her arrival to INESC TEC stems from the close collaboration between SAL and CPES in the H2020 Interconnect project; David Rua, head of the project, highlighted that Estela has played a key role in supporting the open calls of the project, in liaison with the project partners and myself. She’s also been involved in the definition of the project partners’ exploration plan, alongside Joana and the TNO”.

– CPES and SAL Coordinators

This nomination highlights the work/learning process on innovation ecosystems, namely in terms of Academia – Industry interface. How do you describe this work and how did it contribute to the recently published case study?

In my opinion, there’s still a gap between those who create the inventions and are usually close to academia, and those who resort to them in the business fabric. Clearly, this distance is not due to a lack of interest, since the agents involved in the innovation ecosystem have made great efforts to connect these worlds; however, I believe that there is still a mutual lack of knowledge about means/tools for knowledge transfer through models that benefit all – as well as methods to formally understand the expectations and realities of the different partners. This case study of technology licensing, developed by INESC TEC and IBT, aims to present a concrete example of how it is possible, through dual licensing, to transfer a technology for corporate use, while disseminating knowledge among our academia partners, through open-source licenses. Besides consolidating the case and its results as an education tool for us and the community, the writing process was also very important to us; interviewing those involved allowed us to understand even more about the difficulties of those who are part of the “business world”, and how INESC TEC has the necessary structure to provide legal and strategic IP support in this knowledge exchange, crucial to leverage small businesses. The case study is not very extensive and I highly recommend reading it.

You’re also involved in the H2020 Interconnect project, namely in supporting open calls and exploitation plans. What are the main challenges associated with a project like Interconnect? What are the main results expected from the open calls? How can the exploitation of results benefit academia, industry, and society in general?

InterConnect is a massive project that features 50 partners; now, with the first Open Call, it will involve 10 more SMEs. Due to its dimension, one can easily understand the project’s huge potential; however, it requires a cautious and strategic approach, since even the smallest decisions could have a major impact – both on the daily lives of dozens of partners, and on hundreds of consumers who participate in the pilots. Seeing so many people committed to the development and testing of new solutions that can radically change the way Europe consumes energy is academically exciting; in this sense, my role (together with the team leading the ‘Exploitation’ activities) is to encourage good exploitation plans, so that the solutions created are adopted beyond the project’s timeline, thus achieving an even more lasting impact on industry and society.

Which aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?

I like to try to find ways to translate the importance of topics that are not always at the top of the researchers’ priorities (e.g., intellectual property, exploitation plans, etc.), so they can realise that devoting time and energy to those same topics could be quite beneficial. Thus, I value the openness at INESC TEC, namely to propose new means of strengthening relations and making processes increasingly transparent and less bureaucratic.

How do you comment on this nomination?

I was very surprised and happy! In addition, as a training manager, I like to think that the nomination also represents an acknowledgement that management skills can be great allies of technical and engineering competences. I also take this opportunity to thank all those who’ve helped me integrate into this new world, closer to technology and academia.

Eduardo Castro (CTM)

“The CTM Coordinators would like to nominate the researcher Eduardo Meca Castro. Eduardo is a researcher of exemplary professionalism and motivation, and he has developed, within the scope of his PhD, a work of great scientific impact. Said scientific work has been carried out alongside several of the Centre’s activities. We highlight the participation in the organisation of scientific events, the monitoring of trainees and master’s students, and the support in the execution of projects related to his PhD theme. This nomination is based on the professionalism, availability and high-quality work carried out by Eduardo in the multiple activities in which he was involved, reaching extraordinary contributions. His attitude was particularly important during October, leading to very relevant scientific contributions, which made it possible to provide innovative responses to multiple challenges that were posed in several ongoing projects – and his contributions were widely praised by several project partners”.

– CTM Coordinators

The CTM Coordinators highlight “very relevant scientific contributions, which made it possible to provide innovative responses to multiple challenges”. What are the key contributions you would like to highlight?

The most relevant scientific contribution is undoubtedly the publication “Symmetry-based Regularization in Deep Breast Cancer Screening”, in Elsevier’s Medical Image Analysis journal, with a great impact factor. In this paper, together with my guidance team, we state that there are different ways to improve the performance of deep learning models for breast cancer diagnosis. The proposed methods start from the identification of symmetries that we seek to incorporate into the models. For example, the assumption that the malignancy of a lesion is independent of its location and orientation in the breast leads us to design models featuring this root property. Conclusions are drawn in terms of breast cancer, but the impact of these techniques goes beyond that. The same rationale could be used to design models in other application areas, particularly when the data available for training these models are limited.

You also supported the execution of projects related to your PhD thesis. Can you explain the focus of you PhD? What type of research have you been carrying out? What are the expected results?

My PhD focuses on new deep learning technologies applied to the diagnosis of breast cancer. It is a direct application of technology to a specific area, with a clear impact on society. The last decades have brought many advances in hardware, data availability, medical imaging systems and knowledge. In this context, the question is how these advances can be leveraged to improve diagnosis in breast cancer. This study forces us to realise the potential of new technologies, but also to recognise their limitations. The goal is always to allow the development of new solutions that improve the accuracy in the diagnosis of this disease. Another area of application I have been working on is the use of fingerprints for authentication. Although they are different themes, the same principles apply. We have recently been able to prove that the use of symmetries in this context also improves the accuracy of our models.

Which aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?

From a personal outlook, what I enjoy the most is the constant learning, the feeling that through experience, things that were difficult and unintuitive the year before, become obvious the following year. From a collective point of view, the possibility of being able to contribute to an ever deeper understanding of reality.

How do you comment on this nomination?

I’m happy for this acknowledgement. I know it stems from the work I’ve been carrying out, but also from my colleagues’ work, and the structure that supports it. On an individual level, motivation and drive are important elements, but on a structural level, it’s crucial to benefit from the top conditions to improve our results. I know that CTM has all the competencies to remain an important international benchmark in these areas. In this sense, and concerning research, I believe that we must address it in a collective way: what are our group goals and what is the adequate role for each person, in order to achieve these goals.

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