We catch up with researchers featured in Spotlight on Young Researchers 5 years ago to see how their careers have developed.
When we wrote about Miguel Olivares Mendez in the 2017 edition of Spotlight on Young Researchers, the researcher was working on an FNR JUMP project, focussing on developing algorithms for autonomous drones. The robotics scientist has continued to build his career in Luxembourg – 5 years later, Miguel is a Professor leading a research group with a focus on space robotics.
Are there any developments that came from your Proof of Concept project that you would like to share?
“The outcome of this project was used to apply for an international project in collaboration with University of York (UK) and Hochschule Bonn-Rhein-Sieg (DE), and later to obtain my first European funded project, SESAME, with more than 14 partners.”
How has your research or its focus developed or evolved in the last five years?
“In 2019, I was appointed Professor in Space robotics and started my own research group (SpaceR). I started the group by developing two new cutting-edge research labs, one to simulate the surface of the Moon and another one to simulate orbital operation and scenarios. This was a big change in terms of the environment and constraints of the robots, but I was familiar with working on autonomous navigation for robots.
“In addition, once my group was created and members hired, we extended to other research topics, such as robotic manipulation in space, guidance, navigation and control for spacecraft, multi-robot cooperation and mechanical design for active space debris removal.”
You originally came to Luxembourg for a Postdoc position in 2013. When you were featured in Spotlight on Young Researchers in 2017, you were a Postdoc and PI on a Proof of Concept project. What is your position now?
“I’m now Professor on Space Robotics at the University of Luxembourg and head of the Space Robotics (SpaceR) research group. I’m working less with drones and more with planetary robotics and orbital robotics. Now, I’m leading projects and supervise 10 PhD students and 7 PostDocs. In addition, I have set up 2 new facilities: 1) the LunaLab, a Lunar analogue facility, and 2) the Zero-G Lab, a facility to emulate in-orbit operations and orbital scenarios in micro-gravity.”
What have your highlights been in the last five years?
“Many things, the construction of the LunaLab and Zero-G Lab during the pandemic was really a big challenge and source of pride.”
You have now been in Luxembourg for nearly 10 years. What are your impressions of Luxembourg’s research and innovation in this time?
“I’m always impressed with the research of the SnT and the University of Luxembourg, the enormous amount of talented people and highly innovative companies present in Luxembourg.
“Since my research focus is now Space Robotics, I’m enthusiastic about the Ministry of Economy’s governmental initiative on Space Resources. I envision a fruitful future for Luxembourg in the topic of Space activities, due to the outstanding ecosystem that the Luxembourg Space Agency and the government of Luxembourg is creating in collaboration with the SnT, University of Luxembourg and LIST.”
About Spotlight on Young Researchers
Spotlight on Young Researchers is an annual FNR campaign where we shine a Spotlight on early-career researchers across the world with a connection to Luxembourg. Over 100 features have been published since the first edition in 2016. Starting in 2022, we are revisiting researchers featured 5 or more years ago to show the many paths that can follow a PhD in research, inside and outside academia.
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