Meet the RYIA Award 2022 Winner – Varun Burde from CIIRC CTU

On 30 November 2022, the winners of the first edition of the RICAIP Young Investigator Award – RYIA 2022 – have been officially announced within the opening ceremony of the RICAIP Testbed Brno at CEITEC BUT. The first place goes to Varun Burde, young researcher at the RICAIP Testbed for Industry 4.0 at CIIRC CTU in Prague. Meet Varun and find out more about his story.

I am originally from India and have been living in the Czech Republic for almost five years. I did my bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication and an internship as an electronic technician. This and many DIY projects deepened my interest in robotics.

To widen my knowledge in robotics, I moved to the Czech Republic in 2017 and I started my Master’s degree in robotics at Czech Technical University. I was fortunate to work jointly on a project at Testbed for Industry 4.0 at CIIRC CTU.

My research journey began when I worked on a pick-and-place project under Dr. Pavel Burget. It was my first hands-on project which has the actual application of robotics. I faced many exciting, challenging research problems, which kept me interested and solving them gave fulfilment to my curiosity as a reward. Interestingly, I worked on a project and made a solution that could deploy in running industries. I recognize that publishing and presenting solutions give the possibility to reuse and help many, which influences my career choice toward academics and becoming a researcher.

M. Skalský (CEITEC BUT), L. Janíček (BUT Rector), V. Burde (CIIRC CTU), T. Becker (RICAIP Director), C. Jacob (DFKI)

BUT Rector L. Janíček and V. Burde
What is your personal motivation for a research career?

Since I was in high school, I have been very much interested in how a machine works. To me, the whole concept of robotics lies beyond these mere words put together. It’s the state of the beauty of how a computer program can bring life into a sensor and actuator, which can do wonders.

What do you find most challenging/promising/exciting as a young researcher?

As a young researcher, you constantly face challenging problems which you must manage individually. There are always difficulties in managing time, keeping up with the project demands, and handling school simultaneously, but working on something I like to do gives me unique satisfaction. I like how we shape our research to make a robust solution for the industry. The variations of robotics and its capabilities have no end to discovering new dimensions, something which cannot quench your thirst to learn more and more.

“Varun’s research finds solutions for various basic tasks such as 3D reconstruction, estimating the position of an object or finding the correct grip points. He combines advanced robotics and artificial intelligence in a great way and creates solutions that can benefit industry, and also find applications in agriculture and biomedicine, for example.”

Dr. Pavel Burget, Director of the RICAIP Testbed for Industry 4.0 at CIIRC CTU in Prague

Where are you headed next?

Currently, I am working on my Ph.D. with my advisor Dr. Torsten Sattler and Dr. Pavel Burget, on the task of Object manipulation task. Object manipulation is the core task in almost every industry. My research would focus on performing grip or grasp of the object with robots using vision methods. We will try to find the solution for the challenging and hard objects (like transparent/shiny or with complex geometry) that the industries require to attain the next level of autonomy. I would like to conduct quality research and contribute to the research community, which may ultimately benefit the automation industry.

Who has influenced you most in your research?

A lot of people inspire me in my research. My supervisors, Dr. Torsten Sattler and Dr. Pavel Burget, inspired me the most for my research. Dr. Torsten Sattler is the pioneer in 3D computer vision and has contributed to the research community for almost a decade. Every meeting and talk with him leaves me with great curiosity and insight. Reading his scientific articles inspires me to conduct quality research. Dr. Pavel’s ability to speak and motivate an enormous crowd encourages me to present and deliver results. His enthusiasm toward research makes me adore my job and push myself harder. I found myself lucky to be able to work with them, and I wish to learn as much from them and be like them one day.
My colleagues at Testbed also influence me by hitting me with interesting questions and ideas that prompt me to know more.

Torsten Sattler about Varun:

“I met Varun through Pavel while Pavel and I were looking for a PhD student to jointly supervise. Pavel had recommended Varun as they had both been working together and I liked his robotics background, so I felt lucky that Varun accepted our offer. I enjoy working with Varun as he is very curious and eager to learn new things. I am looking forward to continuing his journey through his PhD studies with him.”

Dr. Torsten Sattler, a top researcher in the field of 3D computer vision, RICAIP Tenure Track position holder, and a recent recipient of a prestigious GAČR EXPRO grant.
Dr. Torsten Sattler, CIIRC CTU

Would you have any piece of good advice for students?

We are living in a probabilistic world, and there will often be times when things won’t work or behave unexpectedly. And doing research is always demanding and challenging and will make you think it’s not for you or that you should give up. I often find myself the least intelligent person in the room, which I guess is very typical in the early research stage. The key idea that also resonates with motivational texts is not to give up. The only difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that they don’t give up. My advice is to focus on the basics, be persistent, believe in yourself, be humble and open to every idea, and keep in mind hard work is always rewarded sooner or later.

Photos: Jan Prokopius (CEITEC BUT), Marie Svatoňová (CIIRC CTU)