R + D: Abbas Sidaoui

Electrical and Computer Engineering, 2021/2022
Fall 2020/Winter 2021

Life before his PhD: I grew up as a normal kid in a family that reveres knowledge and science. I have been hooked by the idea of having smart robots helping us with tasks and improving our lives since childhood. In 2011, I started my undergraduate studies in mechatronics engineering at Rafik Hariri University. I graduated in 2014 first in my class, and continued my master’s studies in the same university. My first experience with robots was in 2012, when I won my first robotics competition. Although it was a simple line-following competition, it opened my eyes to how fascinating robots could be and how important their role will be in the near future. I then won local and regional awards in several robotics competitions. My passion for robots grew and I decided to pursue my PhD in human-robot interaction. In 2016, I enrolled in AUB’s PhD program where I am focusing on human-robot interaction under the supervision of Dr. Naseem Daher and Dr. Daniel Asmar.

What matters most: During my studies, I have discovered that we have a huge gap in our region between research and industry. I have met plenty of brilliant students and scientists who are not given the right opportunity to show their real talents here, so they decide to invest their time and skills abroad. For me, being able to drive a change that allows me, along with my fellow young scientists, to contribute to a better future is what matters the most.

Research: My research focus is human-robot interaction. In short, I am working on a framework for human-robot interaction that combines the cognition, flexibility, and problem-solving abilities of humans with the strength, endurance, productivity, and precision of robots to overcome autonomy challenges. I have published my work in premier international robotics conferences and journals, won awards in Japan and Italy, and have been recognized in the MIT “Innovators under 35 MENA” and Forbes “30 under 30 Middle East” lists. 10 am Tuesday, 10 am Saturday: On Tuesdays, I am most likely testing a code on a robot and wondering why it is working properly. On Saturdays, I am often testing the same code and wondering why it is not working this time!

Most admires: I admire people who do not give up on their dreams and fight to achieve them, no matter how many obstacles they face. The person I admire the most is my father, who passed away five years ago. He is my strength and source of motivation.

Why this topic interests him: I believe that after computers and mobile phones, the next big revolution is “robots” that are able to live in harmony with people, provide them with services, and improve the quality of their lives. I want to contribute to building a future in which robots are a part of our daily lives.