Professor Kamal Youcef-Toumi interviewed by Qatari television series Etqan

MechE Professor Kamal Youcef-Toumi first came to MIT as a graduate student in 1979. His research journey began with developing robots as part of his doctoral thesis that were considered the fastest in the world at the time. In the 1990’s he went on to run special workshops for NASA engineers on modeling and simulations for space exploration systems. A project very near to Youcef-Toumi’s heart involved developing robots which simulate different types of fish to gather data about the ocean and detect leaks in water systems. This research was part of the MIT Singapore Alliance and had the goal of maintaining “a health ocean for a healthy planet.” 

MechE Professor Kamal Youcef-Toumi speaks with a presenter from Etqan TV showMechE Professor Kamal Youcef-Toumi speaks with a presenter from Etqan, a Qatari television program. Image source: YouTube

Youcef-Toumi and his robotic fish were recently featured on an episode of the Qatari television series, “Etqan” or “Mastery.” The show was designed as part of educational programming for families to watch together after breaking their fasts during the month of Ramadan. It features people who are masters of their crafts in a variety of fields from around the world. 

The Etqan film crew visited MIT on a gray January day and interviewed Youcef-Toumi and Sharifah Alghowinem, a research scientist in the Media Lab’s Personal Robots Group. Alghowinem first came to MIT as a postdoc fellow with the Ibn Khaldun Fellowship for Saudi Arabian Women which is directed by Youcef-Toumi and based in MechE, although it places postdoc fellows in labs across the Institute. 

Youcef-Toumi has maintained strong ties with his home country of Algeria and has developed many relationships with researchers and scientific institutions across the Arab and Islamic worlds. One of his priorities is inspiring the rising generations of engineers, scientists and global leaders so he frequently makes time to speak on programs and venues designed for young people, such as the Etqan show.

Today his work involves developing smart systems to enable robots and humans to work safely and effectively side by side. One current project involves 3-D printing on the nanoscale in collaboration with Qatar’s Hamad bin Khalifa University and researcher Dr. Hicham Hamoudi. In the Etqan Robotics episode MechE master’s student, Malek Ibrahim, describes the big goals for their potentially revolutionary project. “Our end goal is to print human organs… first we’re starting small, because the heart has 40 million cells, so we’re starting even smaller and trying to print a fruit fly heart.”

The episode is now available on YouTube. The interview with Youcef-Toumi begins just before the six-minute mark. He notes that the Etqan English subtitles mention of missiles is a mistranslation of space shuttle “rockets.”