Computer Scientist Mariana Avezum

“TUM has always been my first choice”

TUM Alumna Mariana Avezum has lived on four continents and speaks three languages. For her master’s thesis she set up an interdisciplinary team at TUM in order to make the Hyperloop high-speed train even faster.

At the age of nineteen Mariana Avezum came from Brazil to Munich to study. “TUM has always been my first choice”, she says. She signed up for TUM-BWL, but after two semesters she realized that she was not ready yet to deal with the complicated legal language. The language of Mathematics and Computer Science, however, did not present a hurdle. In 2010 she started studying Informatics at TUM. “Very quickly I realized that Informatics was also perfect for me in terms of content”, Mariana Avezum recalls.

In 2014, Mariana Avezum completed her Bachelor’s degree and in 2017 the Master’s. Since then she has been doing her doctorate in Applied Software Engineering at TUM’s Department of Informatics in Garching. Today she teaches herself and always advises her students to attach great importance to application and practical experience. “It’s very important to me that what I’m working on actually benefits people”, she says. Also her own always application-oriented research at TUM was and is guided by this motto.

Mobility of the future

Already during her Bachelor’s degree, Mariana Avezum dealt with the optimisation of traffic flow, a topic that is very close to her heart due to the development of her hometown of São Paulo into a megacity. In 2013, she went to Singapore for her Bachelor’s thesis at TUM Create, a joint research project of TUM and the Nanyang Technological University, to research transportation systems for the cities of the future. In 2015, when she was researching a topic for her Master’s thesis and, rather coincidentally, came across the competition for contributions to the Hyperloop high-speed train launched by Elon Musk, she was immediately thrilled.

I knew that TUM would bring me together with the right experts and sponsors.

The Hyperloop is the concept of a transport system intended to enable transportation at approximately the speed of sound. Since 2015, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has been inviting student teams from around the world to participate in his competition in Los Angeles. Innovative concepts for the so-called Pod, the capsule in which goods and passengers are transported through the tube of the Hyperloop, are to be submitted.

On target at high speed

The fact that the Hyperloop is a mechanical engineering project, unrelated to her specialist field, was an emotional challenge for Mariana Avezum. Yet she did not lose her courage. “I knew that TUM would bring me together with the right experts and sponsors”, she says. TUM and its industrial partner Airbus financed the project, and an interdisciplinary and international team of students from the Scientific Association for Rocket Technology and Space Travel (WARR) provided advice and support. Just two years later, at the beginning of 2017, she had the transport cabin developed by her and the WARR Hyperloop team race through the test tube on the SpaceX premises in Los Angeles – and promptly won the main prize for the fastest capsule cabin. “Even today, it gives me goose bumps when I think back”, says Mariana Avezum.

Since 2017, Mariana Avezum has also been doing her doctorate on Urban Mobility – one of the future’s key issues. She uses software systems to illustrate the significant links between air pollution and traffic volumes. Her work clearly shows how useful it would be to switch to car-pooling or completely move away from the conventional model of owning a car and towards a more multimodal transport, i.e. to use different modes of transport such as electric cars, bicycles and trains. Unfortunately, however, her influence here is very limited because the actual application and implementation of her solutions for efficient and clean mobility are not up to her but to society. “The rethinking must take place in people’s minds”, she says. After her doctorate she might set up her own company, in order to drive this change. “That’s my big entrepreneurial dream.”