Both the US and Australia interested Stoica for different reasons.
“The US attracted me with its economic power and space program – while Australia attracted me for its high quality of life, and the charm of a young country with tremendous potential for growth.”
With its friendlier immigration system, relatives in St Albans (Vic) and his “strange attraction to the exotic world Down Under”, Stoica chose Australia to pursue further studies and research.
While the rest of the world marvelled at the Ninja Turtles and danced in their Hammer pants, Stoica was deciding where to study his ground-breaking research.
Offers from Melbourne Uni, ANU and VU, rolled in, but for Stoica, VU was a natural fit.
During his interview with [supervisor] Professor Ted Walker, Stoica’s future was sealed. He accepted enrolment into the PhD, free university housing, teaching assistantship, paid tutoring hours and support for obtaining a full scholarship.
“While the economic benefits were significant, especially for someone who landed with just two suitcases, the deciding factor was the trust and care I was shown – with almost complete liberty in research theme and methods. I am forever grateful for the trust VU placed in me and the ability of Professor Walker to see my potential.”
Stoica’s thesis revealed how robots can learn from human demonstration, by imitation of human movements. He explored other areas of the University’s research for inspiration: “In order to learn how to teach motor skills I interacted with staff who were analysing human motions during sports – it was fascinating.”
Current staff members who influenced and guided Stoica as colleagues and friends, include Professor Akhtar Kalam, Dr Aladin Zayegh and Juan Shi.