The Luís Vidigal Prize awards, every year, a cash sum and recognition to the student author whose thesis gathers the best scientific, innovation and quality characteristics. João Domingos, tutored by Professor João Xavier, has won the 2018 edition for his Master’s thesis: “A Step Towards Distributed Control of Massive-scale Networks.” The award was announced at the opening session of the JEEC IST Engineering and Tech Talks.

In his thesis, João managed to work on three main questions related to distributed control theory, an upgrade to the ‘regular’ control theory in which the system is a network and each knot acts has an agent.”Imagine a group of small robots communicating with each other via wireless. In order to make them more autonomous, in a distributed way, you have to control the several agents in a centralized manner.” João explained that the challenge is to design a network of communication between ‘robots’ in an intelligent way since in this system each agent may have only partial information from another agent, difficulting a global view of all the variables.

“In huge networks of data its impossible for one single computer to centralize that information and so it becomes important to bet on strategies that take the partial information into account.” Even though his propositions were highly mathematical João also considered the practical applications and that probably had implications on the weight of his thesis. “I tried to consider several approaches by different authors. Through that research, I gained a much broader view of the theme, which lead me to name the thesis ‘A Step Towards…’ instead of just ‘Distributed Control of Massive-scale Networks’. ”

His focus on more than one problem in a centralized way, view of the practical applications and dedication – he even applied to PhD courses just to better develop his Master’s thesis – were all factors that probably weighed in the jury’s decision to award João’s work. To this somewhat unexpected recognition, João attributes a lot of value to his tutoring and the months he worked on a project with Professors João Xavier and Cláudia Soares and even expands his thankfulness to the members of the jury. Currently working on research at Carnegie Mellon University he feels like the Luís Vidigal Award will certainly make a difference in his future PhD.