Professor's portrait: Mikael Ekström
Mikael Ekström, Professor, School of Innovation, Design and Engineering, Division of Intelligent Future Technologies.
Please tell us briefly about your academic career – what decisions have brought you to where you are today?
I have a Master of Science in Engineering in Material Physics, and then I publicly defended my thesis in Physics "Internal magnetic properties of rare earth metals and compounds" at Uppsala University. After defending my doctoral thesis I was offered the position of Senior Lecturer in Electronics at IEL (as it was known then), doing research and teaching primarily in the area of measurement and sensor technology. In 2008, together with Professor Lars Asplund, I was given the chance to initiate research on underwater robotics, which got me hooked in the robotics area. In 2012, I became an Associate Professor in Robotics, I took over the management of the robotics group in 2014 when Lars retired and since 2019 I am Professor of Robotics.
In what area do you conduct research?
Since I started with underwater robotics, it has evolved to include almost all types of cooperative autonomous vessels, from small robots who collect rubbish which work together to autonomous wheel loaders and collaborative flying drones. The reason I do it is because it's so much fun, and it's easy to link the research to real needs in society. Simultaneously, it’s easy to link it to our Masters of Science in Engineering programme and the teaching we conduct there.
How would you describe your research environment at MDU?
We are a group of close-knit researchers who are committed to areas such as AI, electronics, computer science and mechanics, which are required to make the systems work.
What is the driving force in your research?
The opportunity to investigate an interesting area together with others, and of course the chance to supervise doctoral students and other students.
Which research domains are particularly important for you?
How to safely and reliably get systems to cooperate which comprise different robots. And since it was that project which got me into the robotics area, I naturally have a particular interest in the underwater robotics project to find mercury barrels on the sea floor for instance.
How do you feel about becoming a Professor given that MDU has recently become an official University?
I hope and believe that it will provide new opportunities both in research and teaching.
What's the best part about conducting research at MDU?
The open environment which is fantastic which provides excellent opportunities for cooperation in both large and small projects together with other researchers and external parties.