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CMU Portugal Inside Story: Zita Marinho

Zita Marinho is a CMU Portugal program Alumnus in Computer Science/Robotics who graduated in 2018. Her research areas have a focus on machine learning and optimization with applications on Robotics and Natural Language Processing. She was jointly advised by André Martins, Geoffrey Gordon and Siddhartha Srinivasa and her thesis was centered on spectral methods for prediction and planning tasks. Zita is currently a researcher at Priberam Labs and is affiliated with the Institute for Robotics and Systems, at University of Lisbon, Portugal.


When you decided to pursue a PhD, why did you choose the CMU Portugal Program?

I decided to pursue a PhD two years after my Masters graduation, I was doing an internship at ESA in the Advanced Mission Concepts team and wanted to learn more about Machine Learning and Robotics. The CMU Portugal Program provided an extraordinary opportunity for me to do a PhD in one of the best Universities in the field.

How would you describe your experience under the CMU Portugal program? 

My PhD experience was very enriching, I had the chance of meeting and collaborating with other students and great researchers at CMU. It was very motivating and inspiring to be a part of my research lab, and the campus provides a very intense and thriving student life.

In what ways do you think this PhD impacted your current career?

It was a crucial step to me as a researcher, since your PhD university will let you bridge very important connections with other students and faculty for your future. It also puts you in a very privileged position to pursue you dreams in a vast range of cutting-edge research topics.

What are you doing at the moment?

At the moment I am leading the research team at Priberam labs, a company that provides on Natural Language Processing applications, such as recommendation systems, summarization, etc.

For other students that are thinking about doing a CMU Portugal Dual Degree PhD, what would your advice be?

Be prepared to work very hard, and be very motivated, a PhD is a long journey but definitely a rewarding one. Your PhD will open your career path to a new set of opportunities and it will shape the very core of your abstract and structural thinking and prepare you for your academic or entrepreneurialship endeavours.