How applied research impacted his scientific career

Arriving in 2019 for a sabbatical year from the University of Mexico, Esaú Villatoro has now been working at Idiap for more than two years. Between publishing his work and adapting to Swiss life, he looks back on his experience at the institute.

What are your research and your work here at Idiap?
Since the beginning of my sabbatical year, the plan was to actively collaborate with the Speech & Audio Processing group, to have joint publications in prestigious conferences, and if possible, collaborate with other's research groups within Idiap. Fortunately, this happened in the best way possible. I collaborated with Petr Motricek and Mathew Magimai-Doss, as well as with Daniel Gatica-Perez, leader of the Social Computing group. My work focuses mainly on the development of a so-called mental lexicon that can be used to link mental disorders and their detection through a combined text and speech analysis. Last July, I was also invited to work with Petr Motlicek in the framework of a collaboration with the company Uniphore on technologies related to spoken language comprehension. Working on this subject is a real challenge but it is also very motivating.

When did you decide to extend your stay at Idiap?
I don't know if there was a real trigger one day or a particular event that made me realize that I wanted to stay here beyond my sabbatical year. However, I remember when I started working with Petr Motlicek, I could see the real impact that our research and its applications could have on businesses and the industry. In contrast, what I was doing in Mexico was limited to fundamental research. I also appreciate that at Idiap, and in Switzerland in general, people are efficient. They don't like to waste time and instead they focus on what is important, like helping and improving the projects they are working on. The pandemic and the birth of my child also led me to think about staying in Switzerland. At the end of last year, both Petr Motlicek and the director Herve Bourlard agreed on having me here as a research associate in the Speech & Audio Processing group given my good performance, something I gladly accepted.

What do you particularly appreciate in Valais?
I really value the quality of life, which is exceptional here. A good work-life balance is priceless. I also appreciate being able to come to work by bike or on foot. The only thing I'm not completely used to yet is the food, which is something I will always miss about Mexico, along with the family of course.

More information
- Esaú Villatoro's website
- Speech & Audio Processing Group