We Are Proud to Present – Dr. Petra Gospodnetić!

International Day of Women Scientists: Portrait of a Female Mathematician

Dr. Petra Gospodnetić joined Fraunhofer ITWM during her studies through an internship and has been working in our »Image Processing« department ever since.

She also wrote her doctoral thesis at our institute. She was awarded the prize of the Friends of the Rheinland-Pfälzische Technische Universität Kaiserslautern-Landau (RPTU) on November 1, 2022.

Today, she leads a project on image simulation in the focus »Machine Vision and Machine Learning« funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and conducts research in the fields of inspection planning, interactive 3D virtualization, industrial image processing.

She also wrote her doctoral thesis at our institute. Today, she leads a project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) on image simulation with a focus on »Machine Vision and Machine Learning« and conducts research in the fields of inspection planning, interactive 3D virtualisation, industrial image processing.

Proximity to forests, nature, animals — these are all important topics in Petra Gospodnetić’s free time and also played a key role when she chose Kaisers-lautern as her destination. She has now lived here for seven years after pre-viously studying computer science in the Croatian capital Zagreb.

She came to her field of study via photography, as she started taking pictures as a teenager and published an equestrian magazine online with her sister. »I especially enjoyed editing images. I love the way you can get more out of a photo with accurate shooting techniques and software. When I started studying computer science, I knew I would go in the direction of image processing«, says Petra Gospodnetić, adding: »In photography, you get pictures that someone has to judge, and that judgment is extremely subjective. I don’t like that. There’s no yardstick by which you can tell if it’s a good piece of work – it’s different in my job now. And I’m not just a user, I’m actually driving the technology forward myself.«

Fraunhofer ITWM Discovered During Internet Research

At the end of her studies, she found that the Croatian job market at the time offered few opportunities that matched her main interest – working with images from a technical perspective. »I wanted to do an internship and said, OK, I want to go somewhere else, gain experience, and that’s how I found Fraunhofer ITWM on the internet. The department was advertising internships, and the projects listed on the website seemed really interesting. So I sent off my cover letter,« Petra adds: »It was definitely an overly enthusiastic cover letter!«

Excited, she traveled to the interview, arriving far too early. As she waited in the foyer for Kai Taeubner, the head of the image processing lab, she noticed a squirrel that had strayed into the building. »I was able to pass the time well by catching it and it provided us with a topic of conversation right away«, she recalls with a laugh. »We then quickly agreed on the content of my internship and I received an ERASMUS grant to complete it.«

Once she arrived at the institute, she spent two months working with Kai Taeubner on preparing a visual inspection system. »We set up the light, the camera and the product, analyzed the PRE study and took the pictures. And the whole time I was wondering, ‘Seriously, we’re still doing this manually?’ Kai and I know what we’re doing here, but it must be possible to automate this!« To continue this vision, Petra decided to write her master’s thesis at Fraunhofer ITWM. In collaboration with Falco Hirschberger, this resulted in the first software that enables camera positioning to be planned in inspection planning.

Dr. Petra Gospodnetić
© Fraunhofer ITWM
Dr. Petra Gospodnetić

The Path to a Doctorate

Petra enjoyed working at the institute right from the start, and she also felt at home in the Palatinate region – not least because she is allowed to bring her dog into the office. In the meantime, she has also won round her husband, who has now joined her in the Palatinate after they commuted between Kaiserslautern and Zagreb for a long time.

Although she had previously turned down the opportunity to write a dissertation in Zagreb, she accepted Markus Rauhut’s offer to also write her doctoral thesis in the Image Processing department. What convinced her? The opportunity to further advance the inspection planning solution she had developed. Rauhut suggested Prof. Dr. Hans Hagen from the RPTU as her doctoral advisor and, together, they went for an initial meeting. »We talked about doctoral studies in general, and then Prof. Hagen asked me why I wanted to do a doctorate. And I told him straight that I wasn’t pursuing a doctorate. That was never my goal. My goal is to do good work, to find a solution to inspection planning, and if that gets me a Ph.D., I have no problem with that.«

The working group
© Fraunhofer ITWM
The working group consists of Prof. Hans Hagen, Josiah Abah, Dr. Petra Gospodnetić, Duje Štolfa, Juraj Fulir and Lovro Bosnar. Markus Rauhut is missing on the photo.

Rescue Dog Team Provides Good Balance

She continued to work on visual inspection planning for four years, was also very actively involved in many other activities related to Fraunhofer ITWM, such as the STEM Games in Croatia, and, to do something completely different, trained herself – and her dog – and joined the Kaiserslautern rescue dog team. »It’s a completely different responsibility and challenge to what I face in my everyday professional life. I’m outside a lot, we train intensively and we help people. I get a lot out of it.«

In April 2021, Petra handed in her dissertation, which was awarded summa cum laude and for which she received the award of the Friends of the RPTU. In her dissertation, she developed software for the visual inspection of workpieces that simulates photorealistic images and generates training data sets. And because she is still very much at home at the institute and is on an extremely successful path to industry with her beloved inspection planning project, she is staying with us. She is currently leading a project on image simulation with a focus on machine vision and machine learning which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

About the Dissertation

Her doctoral advisor Prof. Hagen wrote in his evaluation: »Application problems trigger basic questions, but the results of basic research must also seek and find their way (back) into the application domain. Ms. Gospodnetić has also thought about this aspect. She develops meaningful guidelines that have gained international recognition. This thesis meets the highest standards both in the application domain and in the basic domain.« Her second reviewer, Prof. Gerik Scheuermann (Leipzig University) stated in his review: »The scientific achievements in the individual topics and the highly convincing integration into an initial system for semi-automatic inspection planning for any component are without doubt internationally first class. Overall, I therefore rate the thesis as excellent and congratulate the author on her work.«