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UPF Engineering studies celebrate 25 years

The commemorative event gathered students, alumni, administrative staff, teachers and those responsible for the management of the Department and the School of Engineering since its inception, accompanied by the rector of UPF, Laia de Nadal.


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On Tuesday, 21 May, UPF Engineering studies celebrated 25 years of existence in the form of a commemorative, recreational and festive event held on the UPF Poblenou campus. Josep Blat, the first director of the Department, was responsible for cutting the cake to commemorate these 25 years, one of the most symbolic moments of today’s proceedings, in which the UPF rector, Laia de Nadal, also intervened. 

In the words of the rector, “UPF engineering studies have managed to adapt over all these years to a changing world, based on their capacity for innovation” and have stood out for promoting “transdisciplinary studies”, “with a high internationalization factor” and a “great capacity to attract competitive resources, especially in Europe”. She also recalled that the UPF Department of Engineering is the only one in Spain in this discipline to have been awarded the María de Maeztu seal of scientific excellence twice in a row.

The rector with the five directors of the UPF School of Engineering since its creation.

During the event, moderated by journalist and UPF alumni Aurora Masip, the rector presented a gift to all the people who have directed the Department and the UPF School of Engineering. In chronological order, they are Josep Blat, Xavier Serra,  Xavier Binefa, Miquel Oliver, Vanesa Daza, Sergi Jordà, and Vladimir Estivill, in the case of the Department; and Jaime Delgado, Coloma Ballester, Ricardo Baeza, Enric Peig, and Oscar Camara, in the case of the School.

Conversation among the people responsible for the management of the Department since 1999

Those responsible for the management of the Department since its inception held a convivial conversation. Josep Blat highlighted that, at the end of the 1990s, he “had a great opportunity to do something different, to create international, demanding and highly innovative studies”. In this regard, Xavier Serra recalled that “the department was not born from a typical vision of engineering, and the perspective of the world of audiovisuals and multimedia played a fundamental role”. For Sergi Jordà, the freedom to do different things marked the evolution of engineering studies at UPF and his own academic career: “I've always tried to do what I really wanted to do”.

Xavier Binefa, founder of the bachelor’s degree in Mathematical Engineering in Data Science, explained that he promoted its creation because “it was a hot topic in society at the time”, which was starting to be mentioned in international forums and in some scientific articles. For his part, the current director of the Department of Engineering, Vladimir Estivill, praised the dialogue that has prevailed since its origins: “UPF and the department have always been very democratic, with a great belief in debate”. Vanesa Daza, the only woman who has directed the Department to date, added that she has always felt comfortable and respected for her professional profile, beyond her gender. However, she stressed the need “to do more work” to bring more women into engineering. Finally, Miquel Oliver insisted that in order to build the future of UPF Engineering studies, it is necessary to continue “giving space, freedom and support” to the people who make up the School and the Department.

Conversation among the directors of the Engineering Department since 1999.

Presentation by Xavier Amatriain, a PhD in Engineering from UPF and an expert in AI

Next came the turn of Xavier Amatriain, a renowned telecommunications engineer and an expert in AI, who delivered the conference “Being human in the age of artificial intelligence”. After reviewing the historical origins of artificial intelligence, which date back to the late 1950s, Amatriain explained that advances in AI and deep learning have accelerated especially since 2011. That year, Amatriain started working at Netflix, where he devised its first recommendation algorithm system. He highlighted that since then, both algorithms and AI models have become more sophisticated and have undergone exponential growth: “today, there are already AI tools that surpass humans in certain tasks”. As an example, he referred to the greater accuracy of medical diagnoses that can be achieved with AI. As advice for the future, he insisted that the ability to decide must always belong to humans and that the potential of AI must be exploited to work more efficiently and commit to “democratizing knowledge” on how to use it.

Xavier Amatriain during his talk.

Alba Cervera receives the first Women Researcher Award from the Department of Engineering

During the day, enlivened with monologues by Big Van -who are dedicated to disseminating science with a touch of humour-, the 2024 Women Researcher Award by the UPF Department of Engineering was also delivered. It went to Alba Cervera, a senior researcher at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) and coordinator of the  Quantum Spain project. The person tasked with presenting the laureate, who could not attend the event but joined in via a video, was the full professor and president of the Equality Committee of the UPF Department of Engineering, Núria Sebastián.

The professional careers of four UPF Engineering alumni

Round table with four alumni of the UPF School of Engineering.

Four students from the UPF School of Engineering were the focus of another part of the proceedings, one from each of its degrees, who shared their professional experiences. Francis Casado (Computer Engineering) has co-founded a company that makes digital twins of sports and cultural venues. Also making digital twins, but of the human brain with the aim of helping prevent and treat mental illnesses, is Roser Sánchez (Biomedical Engineering). The work of Helena Gimeno (Mathematics in Data Science), who applies her knowledge in a dental technology company which manufactures and distributes prostheses, is quite another story; while Adrià Arbués (Audiovisual Systems), is currently working in an American start-up that performs the statistical analysis of NBA basketball games. For his part, Roger Romance (Telecommunications) is currently working for a venture capital fund that seeks to consolidate investments for companies in the field of cybersecurity.

Group photo of the UPF School and Engineering Department team.

Today’s event was complemented with a day of sports and video game activities and tournaments in different areas of the Poblenou campus. However, the 25th anniversary celebrations will continue next academic year with a series of conferences by prestigious experts.



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