A Conversation with Liam Paull, a Mobile Robotics Professor
Describe what you do at work.
The job of a university professor includes many different aspects. I spend roughly one third of my time advising graduate students, one third of my time teaching and designing courses, and one third of my time reading research, writing papers and thinking hard.
My specific area of specialization is mobile robotics. In my lab, we strive to give robotics real intelligence. These robots can be used for transportation (driverless cars), assisting people indoors, or anything in between.
Robotics is somewhat unique in that it requires a solid background in many areas of STEM – such as computer science, computer engineering, programming, mechanical engineering and many others. A solid understanding of how all of these things work together is essential for achieving cutting-edge results and pushing the field forward.
How does your job affect people’s lives?
Robotics will change the world in the coming decades. For example, if we can develop a driverless car, this has the potential to transform society on a scale at the level of the invention of the automobile itself.
What motivates you in your career?
I’m excited by trying to create new things and knowledge that don’t exist yet. I love working with graduate students. I love not having a “real” boss and being able to pursue roughly whatever I find interesting. I love trying to make an impact.
Describe your career path to this career.
I always thought I would like to do higher education. When I started grad school, though, I was in a completely different field: power electronics. I stumbled upon a class project about robotics and then never looked back. I never thought I would have the opportunity to go to a place like MIT to do a postdoc. I was lucky that I had supportive advisors who gave me the opportunity to prove myself.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
My favorite thing is rock climbing.
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
Get your hands dirty. Learn the fundamentals but then learn the boundaries by actually applying things.
I was born/grew up in: Montreal, Quebec
I now live in: Montreal, Quebec