Research

I am a Scientific Project Officer at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, based in Ispra (VA), Italy. I investigate AI, machine learning and computer vision techniques and apply them into a variety of fields, such as robotics, forensics, agricultural science and earth observation. At the JRC, I research predictive models and learning architectures to fight organised cyber crimes.

I am a former EU-FP7 and EU-H2020 Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellow.

I was awarded with an Individual Fellowship by the EU-H2020 Research and Innovation programme (“Predictive Robots”, 2019-2021), hosted by Prof. Cecilia Laschi at the BioRobotics Institute of the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (Pisa, Italy).

My first Marie Curie fellowship (EU-FP7 Marie Curie Initial Training Network INTRO, “Interactive Robotics”, 2010-2013) was hosted by Prof. Verena V. Hafner at the Adaptive Systems Group, Computer Science Department of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. During my PhD studies within this Marie Curie ITN, I spent a secondment at Umeå University, Sweden. My background is on Computer Engineering (Università degli Studi di Palermo, Italy; Erasmus M.Sc. student at: ETSIIT, Universidad de Granada, Spain). I have been awarded with a Humboldt Post-Doc Scholarship from the Humboldt Graduate School in 2013-2014, and have been working as a post-doctoral researcher at the HU-Berlin from 2014 to 2019 in different EU and German projects.

I investigate learning architectures and computational models for artificial systems inspired on infant development and on human brain functioning. I research a variety of machine learning techniques for implementing these models, including self-organising models, deep neural networks and probabilistic models. I am particularly interested in online learning and reinforcement learning techniques, multi-modal integration, perception and predictive processes. I have worked with different sensing technologies, including standard, multi-spectral and depth cameras, microphones, robot sensors such as joint encoders and IMUs, and non-conventional sensors such as artificial whiskers which I prototyped.

In robotics, I study mechanisms of anticipation of sensory and motor information for basic cognitive development. I found out that such processes can have an important role in capabilities like behaviour recognition and arbitration, tool-use, curiosity-driven exploration behaviours and perception in artificial systems. Moreover, my research on predictive and sensory attenuation processes aims at providing insights in the understanding of subjective experiences typical of humans, such as self-awareness, self-other distinction, sense of agency and sense of object permanence, and in the possibility of implementing an artificial Self into robots.

I apply these mechanisms into different robotic platforms, such as humanoid robots, mobile platforms and micro-farming robots. I built also the electronics and hardware of custom underwater and marine drones, partly developed through rapid prototyping techniques such as 3D printers and CNC machines.

My research on learning and perception is applied on a wider range of domains. I have been cooperating with: agricultural scientists, on modelling and anticipating physiological states of tomato crops in innovative greenhouses, and on earth observation studies (i.e. object detection and segmentation from satellite and remote sensing imagery); psychologists and cognitive scientists, on modelling and optimising perception in robots and on understanding similar processes in humans; (currently at the JRC) forensic experts, on computer vision, machine learning and reinforcement learning techniques (for tasks like object detection and identification, and image quality assessment) to support the fight against cyber crime, such as child abuse online.

I have been involved in different European and German projects, including EU-FP7 Marie Curie ITN INTRO (Interactive Robotics), EU-FP7 EARS (Embodied Audition for Robots), EU-H2020 ROMI (Robotics for microfarms), DFG SPP The Active Self, EU-H2020 MSC IF Predictive Robots, DFG “Adaptive architectures for Transferability of Greenhouse Models”.

I am a Guest Editor of a Research Topic on Re-enacting sensorimotor experience for cognition, in collaboration with Frontiers in Robotics and AI, Specialty Section: Humanoid Robotics, Review Editor for Frontiers in Neurorobotics, and Guest Associated Editor for IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems.

I am a member of IEEE, EUCognition, and of the Marie Curie Alumni Association.