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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Leite


It is the end of an era. And as such, I want to thank everyone who held my hands, dried my tears, brought a smile to my face, and gave me strength and inspiration.

These are my Thesis acknowledgments.

During the last four years, every time I was asked, "what do you do?" I proudly would say, "I am a Ph.D. student in Neuroinformatics", and I knew that shortly after, I would say, "we try to understand how the brain works and mimic its behavior in a new machine called neuromorphic hardware".

People often would be surprised and impressed: "you must be smart!".

I have never considered myself smart.

I have spent a lot of effort and energy to build who I am today and to acquire the knowledge I have.

I consider myself hardworking, privileged, and amazingly lucky.

It was not because I am smart, nor only because of my efforts, that this Thesis is now complete.

This Thesis is a product of many people that crossed my life.

I will start by saying how grateful I am for the support of my whole family, that even though they didn't really understand, they accepted my efforts in moving out from my hometown to do a master's and, later on, to cross the Atlantic for the Ph.D.

I am incredibly grateful to my mom, Andrea, who, in her unique way, always pushed me to study and do better;

and for my sis, Brenda, that held things together back home and gave me the love of my life, Benicio: one more reason to keep fighting and pursuing my dreams.

It would be naive to believe this journey started when Giacomo accepted me into the ZNZ program.

In fact, it started when my bachelor's Professors told me I could do more and gave me support to do so.

I am so grateful to all my former professors, especially Anselmo Paiva, Aristófanes Silva, Carlos de Salles, and Marcelo Gattass.

They were keystones for my academic career.

I can not express how much I value their opinions and all the help I got throughout my Bachelor, Master, and even Ph.D.

I need to thank all my Brazilian friends, either in Zurich or back in Brazil, who helped me feel that home was not that far.

Thank you so much, Friedrich Garcez, Isadora Martins, Camila Silva, Humberto Victor, Adriano Reis, Taniel Martins, Bethania Souza, Mariana Gliesh, Fabiola Maffra (and Lucas e Mia), Eliana Goldner, Paula Rodrigues, Eduarda Morsch, Priscilla Matos, and Lais Guimaraes for making my days brighter in this cloudy, cold and grey city.

Working between two groups at the Institute of Neuroinformatics (INI) has been tremendous, and INI has become a second home for me.

Thank you to everyone at INI, everyone who gave me insightful feedback after lab meeting talks, Journal Clubs, the admin team, and all my colleagues from the Neuromorphic Cognitive Systems and Cooks Group, in particular to Julia Buhmann, Nils Eckstein, Moritz Milde, Ethan Palmiere, Xander Nedergaard, Melika Pavyland, Mohammad Ali, Matteo Cartiglia, Alpha Renner, and Carsten Nielsen.

Thank you to Zhe Su, Junren Chen, and Adrian Whatley for the close discussions and all the help with this Thesis.

Many, many thanks in particular to the people that welcome me in their private lives: Karlita Burelo, Nicoletta Risi, Raphaela Kreiser, Renate Krause, Giorgia Dellaferrera, Arianna Rubino, Matilde Tristany, Dmitrii Zendrikov, Lucas Pompe, Gala Sanchez, Tavo Siller, Luca Zuccarini (and Braska!), Marco Eppenberger, and Andrea Magazzini.

I could not be more grateful to get to know you all, and I genuinely appreciate your friendship and all the hugs and love.

Thank you to all the people involved, directly or indirectly, for providing me with feedback and support. Thank you to Vanessa Machado, Roberto Azevedo, and the EU grant.

I have no words to say thanks to Matthew Cook.

Matthew was by my side since my first steps in Switzerland.

He cried with me when I faced problems; he helped me find solutions when I could not see one anymore.

He advised me not only in my projects and this Thesis but also in my personal life and helped me to create a sense of future.

Thank you, Matt, for all the beers and gin tonics we had together, for bringing me gin and marshmallows when we elected the worst president in Brazilian history.

Thank you for breaking down my stressful moments and making me go away for a bit when I needed to but could not see it.

Thank you for always being available when I needed to vent out and complain about nothing and everything.

I wish everyone could have a Matthew in their lives.

And, finally, my biggest and deepest gratitude to Giacomo Indiveri.

Giacomo has been the best supervisor I never could dream of.

I am immensely grateful for the opportunity, the project, all the pieces of advice, and his patience and support.

Not only he guided me in this academic career, but he also supported me in fighting for gender equality and opened paths for what is yet to come.

It was his support that allowed me to have a voice and to feel empowered and confident.

And even with his limited time, he always managed to find space for me, my complaints, and my doubts.

Sorry, not sorry, Giacomo, for all the TikToks, and I can only hope that one day I will be as inspiring to others as you are to me.

All-in-all, I can not pretend I had no fears or to see this time with rose-tinted glasses.

However, I can not deny this incredible feeling of gratitude. This Ph.D. has been quite a journey.

It is not only about all the knowledge and academic formation I got.

It is, and I dare to say in its biggest part, about all the people I had around throughout these years.

You all have been with me through the highs and lows; your support got me through, made me keep going, and brought me here today.

During these years, I have loved and been loved;

I have read and written, traveled and made a home;

I have thought and dreamed, learned and taught;

I have laughed and cried; I fought and quietened down;

I have built my own way and accepted known paths;

I made friends and changed who I am.

These Ph.D. years have been, in themselves, an enormous privilege and my biggest adventure.

I know I have complained. Nevertheless, I will miss every single bit of it.

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É o fim de uma era. E eu não posso deixar de agradecer às pessoas que seguraram minhas mãos, enxugaram minhas lágrimas, trouxeram sorrisos ao meu rosto e me deram força e serviram de inspiração. Esses

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