Sergi Rotger Griful

eHealth Researcher
eHealth Researcher Sergi Rotger Griful did his PhD in renewable energy, but a job posting at Eriksholm changed his focus to health care. His skills are applicable in various fields, and for Sergi the most important thing is that he can do applied research that matters.

January 2019

What is your primary work area within Eriksholm Research Centre?

“When I started working at Eriksholm in August 2016, my main working area was eHealth. Now, I also work with the Cognitive Hearing Science team. My expertise is in software development. I develop research prototypes and sensors that can be used for audiological applications.”

How did you get interested in hearing?

“My core expertise is software development, but this expertise can be applied to different domains. I could do software in the energy sector, the health sector, use it for banking, or something else. In my Master’s thesis, I did simulations for the energy domain. When I did my PhD I kept working with renewable energy. I did, however, start focusing more on using my software capabilities to make software that interacts with people and has a lot of sensors. So, when I came to Eriksholm, I was hired to do more or less the same, but now in a different domain.

The reason I found this field appealing is that I like to do things for the greater good. Even though I think that the renewable energy battle is very relevant, I also think the health care sector is equally important. We are all getting older, and I believe that we can do so many things for elderly people that we are not doing today. If I can contribute a little bit, it is good enough for me.”

How did you end up at Eriksholm?

“I got my degree in Spain, where I am from, and concluded it with a Master’s thesis from Technical University of Denmark. Then I did a Computer Engineering PhD at Aarhus University in Denmark. After my PhD, I wanted to work in the industry but still I also wanted to keep in contact with academia. Eriksholm was a bit in between, which made it possible for me to collaborate with university partners but also be in an industrial setup while still doing research. That really attracted me.

When I did my PhD, it frustrated me that the work would take ages to apply. Working at Eriksholm gave me the chance to do more applied research. I am a very result oriented person. When I invest effort in something, I like to see an outcome.“

What are your thoughts on moving to another country?

“I wanted to go abroad to work with renewable energy, and Denmark is a good option for that. I did my Master’s thesis with the Danish windmill company Vestas, and I couldn’t miss this opportunity to play with the big boys.

What kept me in Denmark was the fact that the research conditions in Denmark are quite encouraging to me. The structure is relatively flat, which for instance means that you can say things to your supervisor, and he will listen. That motivates me.
Also, it is quite common to have people with a doctorate working in the industry in Denmark. I think the important thing you learn from doing a PhD is how to approach problem solving rather than the exact topic. That is well appreciated here, and I like being recognized for that fact.“

What is the most interesting experience you have been part of during your time here?

“Coming from a different field of research, it was quite shocking to me how complex audiology is. There are so many small details in the audiology domain. That was quite impressive.

Something that marked me a lot was the first project I did, called ‘(App)etite for life with hearing loss’. The project put me in direct contact with end users through focus groups. That was a great start of my time here because I really learned a lot about the very different needs of the hearing aid users. This human contact gave meaning and perspective to my job.”

What motivates you in your job?

“I said from the beginning of my time here: The important thing is not what I do, I just want to work with a lot of people. Different people obviously have different expertise, but even when they have the same expertise, they still face problems in different ways. I learn a lot by observing how people work.

Of course, I am an engineer, so I also like to play with ‘toys’ and sensors. It motivates me to put things together and see them work. And when a test subject tries it out and spontaneously calls it a miracle that motivates me a lot.”

What do you do in your spare time?

“I travel a lot. During my first year in Copenhagen, my wife and I went somewhere every second week. Barcelona, Rome, Milan. At some point, we got tired. We do still travel, though.

I also like cooking. When you move away from your home country, you learn to cook some of the traditional food you did not know how to make before. I learned to cook paella in Denmark, and I enjoy cooking it for many people.

My third passion is football – both watching it and playing it. I like to occupy the TV for two hours at least two times a week. I think I inherited my interest for football from my father who took me to the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona since I was four. I still try to go there at least once a year.”

What are the three most important values to you?

Trust: I believe that trust is important, especially in a working environment, because you need to trust that your colleagues can do their work, and they have to trust you.

Honesty: White lies can be okay to not offend people, but if you keep telling white lies to someone, they may be offended anyway. It is better to speak the truth.

Commitment: It is important for me that I like to do what I do both in my personal life and at work. I am either 125 percent in or I am not in at all. I need to feel that what I do is fulfilling.”

What is the most exciting scientific breakthrough in your lifetime?

“One important breakthrough I witnessed firsthand was the first smartphone. I remember, in the beginning of university, when I could go to the internet and download a PDF that the professor was referring to for the first time. It is such a simple thing that provides so much portability. Many people in developing countries don’t have computers – but they do have a smartphone. This simple thing of putting a small computer into a small, portable, and affordable device had largescale effect.”

What do you hope will happen in future science?

“I would not be surprised if, in the near future, we will have a new kind of interface, which will be significantly better at reading brain waves. It could mean that you will not have to type on your computer, you can just think something, and the computer will read your mind.
It will of course have huge complications and spark concerns, because who else will then be able to read your mind? However, when you put the technology into different application domains, it can also do a lot of good. In hearing health care it will help control hearing aids in an optimal manner. It can also help people that have issues like not being able to use a remote control. There are plenty of useful cases other than the cool fact that you can control your TV with your thoughts.

I think that would have an interesting impact on how we interact with each other as well. Earlier we met with our friends by physically being there. That changed with the arrival of the smartphone. Reading brain waves could be another breakthrough that can make human relations quite different.”

If you want to know more about Sergi’s work take a look at his profiles on ResearchGate or Linkedin.