Carlos Ribera Codina with lab robot (Photo: Private)

Thesis collaborations benefit students and companies

Monday 22 Nov 21

Contact

Lazaros Nalpantidis
Associate Professor, Head of Studies
DTU Electrical Engineering
+45 51 62 17 76

Contact

Carlos Ribera Codina
+45 30 77 55 72
ccdn@novonordisk.com

42 per cent of DTU’s MSc students write their theses in collaboration with companies. This is an opportunity to test the theory they have learned in real-world situations. 

In its degree programmes, DTU stresses the importance of enabling students to work with companies to solve ‘real’ tasks, that is, the day-to-day challenges faced by companies which require solutions that engineers can help develop.  On average, 32 per cent of the projects that the students complete in the last part of their engineering programme are done in collaboration with a company, and as many as 42 per cent of DTU’s students write their MSc thesis in partnership with a company.

In the Autonomous Systems degree programme, the number is even higher. A large majority of the students on this programme—no fewer than 76 per cent—choose to write their thesis together with a company. 

“This is because the Autonomous Systems programme is closely linked to the companies’ current need for increased digitalization and automation, which makes it particularly interesting for them to collaborate with us,” says Lazaros Nalpantidis, head of studies in DTU’s MSc programme in Autonomous Systems. He continues:

“When students find that their theoretical education can be used to solve practical tasks, it gives them very useful insights. In addition, it is important for them to learn the differences between the requirements of the academic world and the requirements of a company’s development department. The time horizon is particularly important in this context, as companies rarely have several years to work on a project, as we researchers sometimes have.”

Further development of lab robot
One student who has worked with a company is Carlos Ribera Codina, who during his studies in Valencia, Spain and at DTU specialized in autonomous systems, i.e. the development of automated intelligent systems. He wanted to apply his research to a company’s challenges and approached Novo Nordisk about an internship aimed at a subsequent collaborative project that could make up his MSc thesis. 

“My task was to further develop one of Novo Nordisk’s mobile lab robots so it could service a production line consisting of a series of robotic arms. Each robotic arm adds a component to the product—an insulin pen. My task was to get the mobile robot to place components in a holder by one of the robot arms,” says Carlos. 

Theory applied to coding a robot
The mobile robot already existed in Novo Nordisk’s Robotics Lab, but had to be further developed to perform the new task. 

“I had to program the communication between the different parts of the mobile robot and equip it with a 3D camera that enabled it to understand the surroundings and perform the task,” says Carlos. 

The robot was programmed to fill up the holder with the approx. 10 cm long cylinders which are the main component of Novo Nordisk’s insulin pen. To do this, the robot had to use the camera to assess whether the component was facing the right way when it used its robot arm to place it in a holder—or to rotate it if it wasn’t. 

“Although my MSc thesis ended up requiring a lot of time, it was great to experience how the theory I learned in the programme could be applied to coding the robot and ultimately get it to perform a task that’s needed in the company,” says Carlos Ribera Codina.

Exchange of knowledge essential  

This is confirmed by Milad Jami from Novo Nordisk, who oversees the use of new technologies in the company’s production.

“We benefit a lot from working with students from the universities as they help introduce us to the latest research, for example in the automation. The students help us be more innovative and maintain our position as a frontrunner when it comes to applying new technology in the pharmaceutical industry,” says Milad Jami. 

Today, Carlos Ribera Codina is employed as a robotics engineer at Novo Nordisk, where he continues his work on optimizing the company’s automated processes.