• JRC Ispra: A springboard for outstanding research

Andraž Krašovec is a postgraduate student in the master’s degree programme Computer and Information Science, and is interested in the field of artificial intelligence and the internet of things. He recently returned from a five-month practical research assignment at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Italy. We talked about his research work in the department involved in cyber security, transport security and law enforcement technologies.

Why did you decide to do your practical research assignment at the JRC?

Working with the JRC was presented to me by my mentor on my graduate dissertation, Asst. Prof. Dr Tomaž Curk, to whom I am very grateful for this. Practical research at the JRC in Ispra, Italy, offers an outstanding springboard for further work in an international environment. When he also told me that I could continue this involvement after my master’s degree into doctoral studies, I hesitated no longer.

What did you research as part of your practical assignment?

At the JRC I worked in the field of cyber security. My assignment was to set up a multi-modal sensor network for identifying people in a given space. With volunteers I gathered around 16 hours’ worth of sensor data, by means of which I then used machine learning to construct a system for identifying persons. The aim of the system is through constant monitoring of a person’s identity in their surroundings to eliminate the need for authentication using passwords. I achieved 99.3 percent accuracy in identifying users and 99 percent accuracy in identifying intruders, which I can label a success.


The JRC’s expectations were that I write about this work and publish a scientific article, which represents a fantastic link to the work on my master’s dissertation, since I could use a lot of notes from my article in my dissertation. A few days ago we received a positive response from the journal ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies (IMWUT). I anticipate that the article, including all revisions, will be published in the journal by the end of the summer.


The JRC in Ispra employs more than 1,500 researchers. Of the activities being pursued at the JRC, it is worth pointing out the research in the field of nuclear safety, and the laboratory for simulating earthquakes, with a reaction wall 16 metres high and 21 metres long, making it the second biggest in the world.

What was work like in such a top-calibre international research environment?

The working environment is really relaxed, and allows for a high degree of flexibility and a very free structure of the working day. Each Monday morning the entire unit gets together over coffee and croissants, and one of the team presents their ongoing work. This facilitates the sharing of ideas and offers scope for co-creating proposals that end up as European laws. For me this represented one of the most fascinating activities at the JRC, since it offers an insight into the workings of the European Commission.


Otherwise work at the JRC is composed of researching and writing, each taking up about the same amount of time. We have access to all the latest equipment, and one of the major advantages of working at the JRC is the almost unlimited budget. In addition to all the equipment I had already used at FRI, the JRC provided much more powerful sensors, which sadly I didn’t have time to try out, since I had to return early to Ljubljana.


For me it was an entirely new experience to write an article where I was supported by researchers from our sub-unit at the JRC and by my mentor Asst. Prof. Dr Veljko Pejović of FRI. Together we were able to find solutions to all the challenges really quickly – both in writing the article and in the research.


Ispra is in a wonderful location by Lake Maggiore, and the Alps are close by. Aside from working at the JRC, were you able to enjoy the location?

The location of Ispra is amazing and serves as a fantastic gateway for all kinds of outings, especially into nature. For the first two months it did rain incessantly, but luckily that was followed by three months of mainly sunny weather. I absolutely love skiing, so I joined the JRC ski club, which organises ski excursions every weekend in the winter, and this is a great opportunity to get to know the surrounding areas.


Alongside mountain climbing trips, in the summer Ispra is an ideal spot for swimming in the lake. A number of staff members told me that they often spend their lunch break swimming in the lake, which is just 10 minutes away by bicycle from the JRC.


Whenever you feel like some city vibe, or some cultural or sports event or even just a little change of scene, there are also some bigger cities nearby, for instance Milan, which is just an hour away by car.


What are your plans for the future? Are you already thinking about a doctorate?

I certainly want to continue working with the JRC in doctoral studies. I talked to some of the current doctoral students at the JRC, and their experiences are similar to mine. It is an environment that facilitates superlative conditions for research. Many people after completing their doctorate stay on at the JRC, since the conditions for work and also for living are truly good. I haven’t ruled out staying on there later.


Do you see yourself more in the academic sphere or in the commercial sector?

During my time of study I had the opportunity to work in industry. I am drawn to both, and the issues of the work in my field are similar in both. For me the biggest difference is in the approach to work, which is more thorough in academic circles, while industry places more emphasis on the speed of what has been made. Supposedly I will have time to decide during my doctoral studies.



Join us on the information day for the joint doctoral programme and grants from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy. The event will be conducted in English, online, on Tuesday, 28 April at 2 p.m.


The programme is intended for anyone that wishes to continue their research career on the topic of machine learning in the internet of things and forensic investigation of digital images using biometrics. A research position offers 4-year employment, including up to 3 years at the JRC in Ispra, Italy, and the remainder of the time at UL FRI. The programme also covers the tuition fees for doctoral studies, students must therefore at the same time enrol in doctoral studies at FRI. For more information on the programme, go to the website.