SMART Project ESRs

Marwa Eldiwiny

Marwa Eldiwiny is a PhD student and Early Stages Researcher (ESR) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel whose current research focus is on modelling and simulating self-healing soft materials for industrial applications. Her Master’s thesis was ‘UAV anti-stealth technology for safe operation’. She worked as a Research Engineer at Inria, Lille nord Europe, Research Scholar at Tartu Institute of Technology and a lecturer with the Mechatronics and Industrial Robotics Programme at Minia University, Egypt. Eldiwiny hosts the IEEE RAS Soft Robotics Podcast where researchers from both Academia and Industry discuss recent developments in the Soft Robotics research field (over 94 episodes available). 

Seyedreza Kashef Tabrizian

Seyedreza Kashef Tabrizian was born in Iran in 1993.  He received his Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering at the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad (FUM) in 2016 and 2019 respectively. From 2015 to 2020 he was a member of the FUM Advanced Robotics Laboratory and summitted his Master’s thesis on the design of a bionic hand and its interaction with human body.  He is a current PhD student and an Early Stage Researcher of the SMART Innovative Training Network in the Vrije Universiteit Brussel under the supervision of Prof. Bram Vanderborght. Seyedreza’s research interests include the use of robots to enhance human-robot interaction in the areas of health and manufacturing.

Leone Costi

Leone Costi was born in Parma, Italy, in 1996 and grew up in Ravenna, Italy. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering at Politecnico di Torino and his Master’s degree in Bionics Engineerin” at Università di Pisa, jointly with Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna achieving First-Class Honours for both. Leone is a PhD student at the University of Cambridge under the EU-funded SMART Innovative Training Network. His research interests lie in the fields of Bio-Inspired Robotics, Soft Robotics, morphological computation and artificial organs.

Syeda Shadab Zehra Zaidi

Syeda Shadab Zehra Zaidi obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering and Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad, Pakistan. During her studies, she focused on research areas relating to Aerodynamics and Mechanical Design & Analysis. She is currently working as a PhD student for the ESR5 position in the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (SSSA), Pisa Italy. Her recent research is towards the variable stiffness in self-healing soft-robots. 

Muhammad Sunny Nazeer

Muhammad Sunny Nazeer was born in Pakistan. He completed his Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering (Avionics) at the National University of Sciences and Technology, Pakistan in 2016 with Upper Second-Class Honours. His interest was always in Controls Engineering, so he did his BE thesis in Pakistan Aeronautical Complex on control algorithms development for autonomous operations of a general category aircraft. He continued in the same industry immediately after his BE and worked as a Design Engineer till 2018 on flight control computer hardware development. Then in Sep 2018, he started his Master’s degree “European Masters on Advanced Robotics Plus (EMARO+)” under Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree (EMJMD) program. He spent first year on EMARO+ in Warsaw University of Technology (Sep 2018 – Aug 2019) and second year in Ecole Centrale de Nantes (Sep 2019 – Aug 2020). During his Master’s, he joined Team RAINBOW, Inria/IRISA, Rennes for his thesis on deep learning-based control system for intuitive and effective control of a team of drones (Feb 2020 – Aug 2020). Presently, he is working as an Early Stage Researcher (ESR) under Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) SMART- Innovative Training Network on control and behavior of self-healing soft robots in The BioRobotics Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Italy. 

Somashree Mondal

Somashree Mondal received her Bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering from the Heritage Institute of Technology, Kolkata (MAKAUT), India. She completed her Masters’ in Chemical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati in 2020. Having received the DAAD-KOSPIE scholarship she carried out her Masters’ thesis in RWTH Aachen University, Germany on the topic of functional soft materials. Presently, she is an Early Stage Researcher (ESR) in the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions funded SMART-ITN program and a doctoral student at EMPA, Switzerland. Her research focuses on 3D printed structures based on soft elastomers and their integration in soft robotics.

Francesca Furia

In 2018 she completed cum laude her bachelor in Science and Engineering of Material at the University of Naples “Federico II”. Right after, she started her Master in Material Engineering which she completed cum laude too at the beginning of October 2020. For her master thesis she had the opportunity to study at the SMaRT group of KU Leuven and collaborate with the Department of Physical Chemistry and Polymer Science (FYSC) in the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), she dealt with the simulation of the selective laser sintering process condition of self‑heling materials. Currently, she is a PhD student in the FYSC, VUB and her research is in line with her previous research on self-healing polymers, the aim is to improve the additive manufacturing process of these materials. 

Aleix Costa

Aleix Costa is a PhD student at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in the Physical Chemistry and Polymer Science (FYSC) research group for EU Marie Curie international training network on soft, self‑responsive, smart materials for robots (SMART). He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and a Master’s degree in Materials Science and engineering from the Instiut Químic de Sarrià (IQS) School of engineering. During his Bachelor’s degree, he focused in the study of 2D materials, such as graphene or boron nitride, for Spintronics applications. In the recent years, his research interests have moved towards the development of polymeric materials, topic in which he has more than two year of experience at two different multinational companies.  

Johannes von Szczepanski

Johannes obtained his Bachelor degree in Chemistry from the University of Bayreuth in 2017. Afterwards, he specialized in Polymer Science during his Master studies, which he also conducted at the University of Bayreuth. His Master thesis was on the (AB)n-segmented copolymers as solvent-free polymer electrolytes. Currently, Johannes is a PhD student in EMPA, Switzerland and an Early Stage Researcher of EU funded Marie Sklodowska-Curie program; SMART. 

Usman Shaukat

Usman Shaukat had his Bachelors in Polymers & Process Engineering at the University of Engineering and Technology, Pakistan in 2014. After his graduation, Usman started his professional career with the polymer industry. Initially, he worked in a polymer masterbatch manufacturing company in a techno-commercial role, where he got hands-on experience with different polymer processing techniques. Later on, he moved to Lotte Chemicals Limited which was formerly part of Global AkzoNobel Chemicals, in the Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA) manufacturing plant that was used to manufacture polyesters such as PET. He worked as an Operations Engineer in interdisciplinary roles, in collaboration with maintenance, process, manufacturing and R&D units. 

He started his Erasmus Mundus Joint European Masters in 2018, during which he studied at Universite de Montpellier (France) & Universite Paul Sabatier Toulouse (France) during the first semester. For the second semester, he moved to University of Chemistry and Technology Prague (Czech Republic) and spent his second year (3rd and 4th semester) at University of Twente (The Netherlands). He did his Master Thesis in MESA+ Institute of Nanotechnology at UTwente (NL) on the Development of Saloplastic-membranes from ionic polyelectrolytes which had a self-healing as well as ion-exchange response based on the application atmosphere. Currently he is a PhD student in Polymer Competence Center Leoben (PCCL), Austria and an Early Stage Researcher of SMART-ITN. His research interests are towards the synthesis of self-healing polymers, discovery of photo-responsive vitrimer chemistries and 3D-printing of soft materials for robotic applications.

Pedram Tootoonchian

Pedram Tootoonchian was born in Iran in 1995. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Sharif University of Technology in 2018 and Master’s in January 2022. His Master thesis was on formation of Liesegang Patterns of Cobalt Ferrocyanide Prussian Blue Analogue in hydrogels. Currently, he is pursuing his PhD as an Early Stage Researcher (ESR) under the EU-funded SMART Innovative Training Network in Bilkent University under supervision of Dr. Bilge Baytekin on feedback materials for self‑regulation and self-healing on plant robots.

Maria Pozo

Maria Pozo is a PhD student and an Early Stage Researcher of the SMART-ITN project within the joint collaboration between Suprapolix, Netherlands and Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium. Her background in Material Sciences started during her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at Universitat de Barcelona where she developed a research in synthesis of gold and silver nanoparticles to catalyse the reduction of the toxic by-product 4-nitrophenol. Afterwards, she enrolled in two different master’s degrees (fine chemistry and polymers and industrial chemistry and introduction to chemical research) at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). With these masters, she had the possibility to enrol in a 2 years research at Henkel Ibérica S.A., in the adhesives department. The project developed for the master thesis was based on polymer and hybrid organoceramic formulations as anticorrosion coatings for aluminium alloys used in aerospace, from monomer synthesis to product characterization. During this time, she found her passion for polymers and she was eager to keep learning about them as a PhD student. She worked in LEITAT Technological Centre for 6 months, where she applied her knowledge in polymers to engineered textiles, before she started in the SMART ITN as a PhD student to develop new self-healing supramolecular polymers for soft robotics. 

Huijiang Wang

Huijiang Wang received his BEng and MEng degrees in aerospace engineering at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (Beihang University), China in 2017 and 2020 respectively. During his Bachelor’s degree, he focused in the study of 3D modelling and mechanical design of bio-inspired robots, such as autonomous robot fish or snake-inspired robotic arm. His Masters’ thesis focused on the design of coverage algorithm for spacecraft-based Earth observations. Huijiang is now a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, UK as an Early Stage Researcher under the EU-funded SMART Innovative Training Network. His research interests include design and control of dynamic mechatronic systems and soft robotic gripper.

Iring Kösters

Iring received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

Since 2022, he is an Early Stage Researcher working on joint PhD at the Tallinn University and Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg as part of the EU-funded SMART Innovative Training Network.

His research experience is in water optical surface tracking of soft bodies undergoing fluid-structure interactions biased by a kinematic model, unconventional propulsion system for robotic fish and the destructive testing of soft bodies through underwater blade strikes.

Roman Korotkov

Roman Korotkov obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Materials Science at Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia, in 2017. In his Bachelor’s thesis, Roman synthetized low-melting phthalonitrile monomers for high-temperature composite materials. He continued to study Materials Science at Lomonosov University and during his Master’s Roman developed functional polyacrylamide hydrogels.

After his graduation, Roman started his research career as a research engineer at Skoltech Institute of Science and Technology, Russia, where he performed research on pultruded profiles with shape memory properties. Later he moved to Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology, Russia, and focused his research on non-flammable benzoxazine resins. Currently, he is a PhD student at Polymer Competence Center Leoben (PCCL), Austria, and an Early Stage Researcher of SMART-ITN. His research interests are the synthesis of components for vitrimer resins, the development of photo-responsive vitrimer chemistries, and 4D-printing.