At first glance, it might seem curious that a young man who lived most of his life in London chose to spend time working at ISR-Lisboa instead of going straight to college. For the past twelve years, Pedro Teixeira Santos has lived with his parents near Westminster Abbey and very much enjoyed learning at the Westminster school. So much so, that Pedro valued a good placement and education enough to really think through where he should continue his studies. When Pedro considered taking a gap year to really ponder his decision, his proximity with Portugal shone through. His parents are both Portuguese, so at least every summer he would have contact with the country, besides, of course, speaking the language at home. Not only that but his parents are also Técnico alumni, so the possibility of spending some time in Lisbon presented itself as a very feasible one.
Even back at Westminster school, Pedro had been the co-founder of a robotics club. When he found that even though it had many offers for extra-curricular activities his school offered no particular curriculum for that science and engineering strand, Pedro decided to take it into his own account. Together with a friend he founded a robotics club for his school and it was such a positive experience that currently he continues to have plans to take that club further and is actively working on doing so.
So given that fascination with the fields of robotics and neuroscience, with particular interest in interaction and interaction understanding, Pedro contacted Professor José Santos-Victor in order to realize if there was any possibility of spending some time at ISR to better figure out how research in this field really works. After all this consideration Pedro found himself at the Institute for Systems and Robotics almost with a carte blanche to explore what he was most interested in learning about and working with. It was in talks with researchers and Professors that he realized that there was a new setup at ISR that could allow him to explore those themes and maybe even reach some interesting results. Together with the help of Professor Patrícia Figueiredo, he developed a work plan for the following months. “I found it particularly positive that I was allowed to get my hands into action instead of just being a sponge. I was given trust over an equipment and basically told I could explore it however I wanted. That trust and room to explore were particularly helpful.”
For now, Pedro is well underway with his work at the Institute. He’s keeping with his plan and has already managed to research all the literature and experimental design and after an Easter break in London he’ll be coming back in the summer to complete his project and maybe even publish, which was a surprising possibility at first but can be now considered an expectation.
“I’m excited to come back and I can already recall some good times at ISR. I think fondly of some particular episodes that show a lot of companionship and helpfulness. Like one time a researched needed to measure the handshaking ability of a robot so they went around offering handshakes to everyone, or when I accidentally dropped my soup and everyone immediately offered to helped out.”
At this point Pedro seems to be happy with his decision of taking a gap year and choosing to do so at ISR-Lisboa. When asked if he advises other young people to make a similar choice he gives a very mature answer: “If anyone doesn’t specifically know what they like and has the opportunity to find new things then I would certainly advise it. But only if they have the motivation because figuring out things is more important than any CV entry.”