When Dimitris Chaikalis left Greece to pursue his PhD studies in electrical engineering at NYU Abu Dhabi, he did not know much about the UAE. Chaikalis had always liked the idea of living in different countries, and the concept of pursuing a PhD program that would see him studying and living in the UAE and the US was enough of an attractive factor for him.
Chaikalis’s first year in New York was a lot closer to being a regular student experience with most of his time spent in classes. When he moved to Abu Dhabi to further his research, it had become more fulfilling with plenty of hands-on research work. The one constant in Chaikalis’s graduate life has been the friends he has made within his cohort. “NYUAD does a great job of building a sense of togetherness among the graduate students of the same cohort. This adds to making the graduate experience here unique,” Chaikalias said.
His transition to living in the UAE had also been smooth.
I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity and multi-ethnic population of the UAE. It is really refreshing and helps remove the feeling of being a foreigner almost immediately (when I arrived).
Candidate Weekend Made an Impression
Chaikalias had heard about NYUAD from Professor of Electrical Engineering Anthony Tzes — who used to be Chaikalis’s university professor in Greece since his undergraduate years. The opportunity to be part of the global network of NYU, proximity of Abu Dhabi from Greece, as well as a good fellowship package had already sold Chaikalis on the idea of doing his PhD here. But it really was his candidate weekend experience that set things in stone for Chaikalis. “Professor Tzes showed me the impressive facilities of the research labs, introduced me to the entire team and made it clear that they would love to have me as a member of their team,” Chaikalis said.
A Positive Environment
Professor Tzes who leads the Robotics and Intelligent System Controls (RISC) lab at NYUAD is a big believer in hard work and recognition of it. “This makes me feel valued and constantly motivated to do better,” said Chaikalis.
The friendly and positive environment in the lab also resulted in great interpersonal relations among all the members from principal investigator, postdoctoral scholars, PhD students, as well as undergraduate students. Having ease of access to tools such as motion capture arenas, aerial robots, industrial robotic arms, and quadruped robots is also something Chaikalis is really appreciative of. “These are state of the art tools that any researcher is lucky to have at their disposal.”
Chaikalis recently won best paper in the category of Aerospace Engineering and Robotics at the annual UAE Graduate Student Research Conference for his research work. “I am glad to be able to make my university proud and show the level of robotics research being conducted at NYUAD,” Chaikalis said.
Chaikalis’s PhD research deals with cooperative aerial workers — aerial vehicles equipped with tools to interact with their environment such as robotic arms. For the past year, Chaikalis’s efforts were focused on achieving cooperative flight of physically attached autonomous aerial agents, paving the way, for example, for drones capable of collaborative package transportation. The research Chaikalis presented at the conference showcased NYUAD’s advancements in the analysis and adaptive control of such physically coupled swarms of aerial vehicles, and being able to show successful experiments of autonomous cooperative flights that were conducted in the lab.