Testimony by José Ramon Trindade Pires (Master - 2013, Doctorate - 2018) - SBC CTD Award 2019

Having the Doctoral Thesis recognized by the Brazilian Computer Society as the best in Computer Science of 2019, according to the scientific and technological results, as well as the potential impact on society and the state of the art in the area, was a valuable reward. incalculable through the efforts and dedication spent on my journey. The award also belongs to Prof. Dr. Anderson de Rezende Rocha, to Prof. Dr. Jacques Wainer, as well as everyone who collaborated to carry out the work, and whose invaluable participation was essential to make the dream of having the thesis recognized in the best possible way possible. The award also comes to sacramental the Institute of Computing of UNICAMP as one of the greatest highlights in CTD-SBC, ratifying the excellence of the institute in the training of students, as well as in offering all the necessary conditions for the development of excellent works of high impact .

My Trajectory in Graduate Studies

My origins and graduation
My dream, when I was a child, was to have a computer. I am from a large, humble family, living in a city of 20 thousand inhabitants in the interior of Bahia. The son of an elementary school teacher in a public school with a workload of 60 hours a week, he helped my mother in the elaboration of activities and always said: “mom, I want a computer for Christmas”. After years of refusing a bike, I finally got a PC. Coming from a public school, when he finished high school he was sure he would take the Computer Science course.

I moved to Vitória da Conquista in 2006 and graduated from the State University of Southwest Bahia (UESB). He was part of a group that was called by some teachers as "the elite". Not because we have privileges or perks, but because we ran behind so that the class would be affected as little as possible by repeated strikes, and mainly because we were seen as those who would graduate and eventually return to improve the university's education system. During graduation, I participated in extension projects, but research was something that little was heard about. Although UESB does not yet have a structure for projects that encourage students to conduct academic research, I had contact with excellent teachers who contributed to my training.

At the end of my graduation, with my colleagues I signed up for a master's degree at some universities, and I had a difficult choice ahead of me: UFSCar, where part of my friends would go, or UNICAMP, the first computer course in the country and that stood out for several factors . I got in touch with professors in the artificial intelligence area of ​​both universities, and among the few who answered me, Anderson Rocha had the patience to listen to the difficulties I had at that moment, and came in contact to find out if I had already made the decision. Among the things he said to me, the possibility of living peacefully with a scholarship in Campinas stands out. And another will remain forever in memory: “Campinas is the Brazilian Silicon Valley”. With that, I decided to do my post-graduation at UNICAMP, under the guidance of Professor Anderson Rocha.

Master and third place at CTD-SBC
When introduced to possible work topics, I promptly chose the topic of aid to the diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy (the biggest cause of blindness in the adult world population, according to the World Health Organization). Throughout my career as a graduate student, I always brought with me the purpose of not only producing academic articles and participating in conferences, but also to collaborate directly with the aid of diagnosis and that the methods would someday be applied for the benefit of society.

However, the trajectory during the master's degree was a very arduous path, both academic and personal. At first I felt insecure for not having done a scientific initiation, and I felt that my path would be much more difficult than that of the other freshmen in the master's degree. To make matters worse, I started graduate school after recently discovering the possibility of having a neurological disease.

In the midst of adverse situations - difficulties in disciplines; adaptation to the study of literature, carrying out experiments and writing articles; crises where I needed to be taken to hospitals, having visible effects on the reduction of my learning capacity; euphoria with publishing articles and participating in a conference; relief from having an approved scholarship despite poor performance in one discipline; among others - I ended the master's degree with a total of 30 credits (22 being the minimum required), 4 published articles (one in collaboration on another topic) and 1 article submitted to a high impact scientific journal. The master's thesis, in the form of a collection of articles, was selected by the Brazilian Computer Society (SBC) among the ten best defended in 2013.

Each master, whose work was pre-selected for the SBC thesis and dissertation contest, had a short time to expose motivations, methodologies and results of his research. As my work was extensive, and each article fulfilled an essential phase - whether or not I needed to capture another image, I even needed a face-to-face consultation - my immaturity prevented me from removing enough content to fit the presentation in time. established. The presentation was interrupted after the allotted time was completed, and I took third place in the 2014 SBC Thesis and Dissertation contest. Despite receiving a memorable award, I was left with a feeling of guilt and that I could have done better .

After the contest, I set a goal for the doctorate I was starting: to develop a job that would be among the best in Brazil, and would be selected for the SBC contest. It would then make a clear, succinct presentation, highlighting the potential for impact and innovation. But for that, I still had a lot to mature, develop my skills, and be aware of the state of the art advances.

Doctorate and first place at CTD-SBC 2019
In 2013, I joined the doctoral program at the Institute of Computing at UNICAMP, and we immediately submitted a proposal and were awarded a scholarship from the agreement between Samsung and UNICAMP. The doctorate started with the improvement of the article submitted at the end of the master's degree.

During the master's degree, I sought to advance disciplines that would serve for the doctorate, justification for which I had concluded with 8 credits in addition to what was necessary for the defense request. Adding the extra credits to the 12 credits that the program allows you to validate, and considering the minimum of 24 credits needed, only one discipline of 4 credits would be sufficient (however, I did an additional discipline that was useful for the research).

The training and experience acquired during the master's degree were fundamental to considerably reduce all that insecurity that I faced in the initial stage of graduate studies. I still had some limitations, I knew how to recognize them, but I saw the doctorate as a possibility to improve my skills and develop my skills. There were open problems in the research topic, and a wide area with methodologies driven by the data that was flourishing at that time.

However, personal matters continued to plague me. Health was severely affected by crises, and the side effect of medications was a major barrier. The trajectory was quite complex in that sense, but giving up never crossed my mind. I was strong enough to move on, despite all the setbacks.

In addition, I faced diverse and distressing problems, such as an endless search for exchange opportunities with resources from other countries (after the Science without Borders program was cut), and a sequence of rejections of the same article, whose improvements and repeated re- submissions took approximately half of the doctorate until then it was published. In search of internships and exchanges, we were close to concluding with options with MIT, IBM (Australia) and IDx (USA), but unfortunately we were not successful due to high competition in selection processes, priorities in other areas of research or isolated factors.

Our work has been awarded for two consecutive years by Google Research for Latin America, an award given to works with the greatest impact in Latin America. We always seek to keep in touch with experts, and in the last half of 2018 we became partners with Phelcom Technologies, a company that was developing a portable device for capturing retinal images. The partnership, in a consulting format, was the initial step for our research to be incorporated into a much more accessible product in the future.

With a lot of effort and persistence, stimulated by the research theme itself and by its possible applicability to improve the health system, I closed my doctorate with 4 articles published in scientific journals, 1 conference article, 1 book chapter, and 4 additional articles in collaboration with other works. The post-graduate journey was full of mistakes and successes, but above all enough learning, making all the effort worthwhile, even going through challenging moments that put our motivation and willpower in check.

With all the maturity, experiences, skills and competences acquired, in addition to the collaboration of countless people, I returned to UNICAMP with the award for best doctoral thesis in computing defended in 2018 in Brazil. And this award belongs to everyone who collaborated, directly or indirectly, in carrying out this work.

I extend my sincere thanks to my advisor Anderson Rocha for all the encouragement and for not allowing me to lose hope. To my co-supervisor Jacques Wainer, and collaborators Sandra Ávila, Eduardo Valle, and Alexandre Ferreira who were essential and decisive for this achievement. I am very grateful to God, to my family, and to the friends of the RECOD laboratory for their support throughout the course of my graduate studies.