Rafael Papallas

PhD Student Software Engineer



I am a PhD student at the School of Computing, University of Leeds and a recipient of an EPSRC DTP (Doctoral Training Partnership) scholarship. I hold a BSc in Computer Science with first class honours from the University of Leeds. I act as a volunteer programming mentor in Leeds CodeUp.

My research focuses on robotics manipulation. In particular, I am interested in developing algorithms for non-prehensile, physics-based manipulation in clutter in conjunction with some human guidance. Imagine a robot trying to reach for an object from a warehouse shelf or from the back of a cluttered fridge. My research deals with these kind of challenging problems where the robot needs to reason about how and which objects to push out of the way to make space to reach for a goal object. Robots' manipulation capability will play a crucial role in the future where robots will need to interact with our environments.

I am leading multiple open source robotics projects on GitHub. In specific, an OpenRAVE C++ controller for UR5 robot, a real-time TF plugin for OpenRAVE, an OpenRAVE environment for Amazon Picking Challenge and a UR5 model for MuJoCo physics simulator. These projects are available online and you can find them under the "Projects" section on this website.


Some of my skills in particular technologies and languages.


1Robot Operating System

Professional Timeline

  • October 2017 - Today

    Teaching Assistant

    Lab assistant:

    Responsible to assist students with their assignments and explain programming concepts.

    Tutorial Leader:

    Responsible to assist students with their coursework and explain algorithmic concepts.

  • October 2017 - September 2019

    PGR Representative, School of Computing

    I was a Postgraduate Researcher Representative of the School of Computing.

    As PGR Rep my aim was to ensure that my school met the expectations of fellow PGRs and to improve PGR facilities and procedures within the school.

  • July 2015 - June 2016

    Software Developer (Intern)

    Cimlogic is a leading company in industrial Operational Technology, Overall Equipment Effectiveness and Manufacturing Operations Management providing software solutions to big companies.

    I was responsible to produce and deliver high-quality software, work with a range of Microsoft technologies, produce URS, FDS and IFAT documents for projects, work in a scrum team, present new ideas, use Jira for project management and bug tracking and work under multiple deadlines.

  • Jun 2015

    Summer Internship

    I worked on a small project at the University of Leeds for four weeks to develop a pipeline system.

    The idea of the project was to archive university's data and make them easily accessible to the research group using a custom search engine.

Education Timeline

  • October 2017 - Today

    Doctor of Philosophy - PhD, Computing

    Societies: Squash, CompSoc

    • Research focus: Robotics, Robotics manipulation
    • Funded by EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) scholarship.
    • PGR Representative (2017 - 2019).
  • September 2013 - July 2017

    BSc. Computer Science (Industrial)
    First Class Honours

    Dissertation: Human-Robot Interaction for Cashier Robot

    During these four years at the University of Leeds, I gained experience in a variety of subjects in Computer Science. The university helped me to develop my analytical, technical and writing skills.

    I received the "Head of School" Scholarship in 2014 and in 2015 during the Graphical User Interface module my prototype work for the "Health and Safety training course" app was one of the nine selected for implementation.

    My final year project ("Human-Robot Interaction for Cashier Robot") investigated motion planning algorithms, computer vision techniques, and other robotics-related algorithms to develop a cashier robot in a proposed sweet-shop. We used the Baxter robot and we ran experiments with novice users in a real-world setting.

    During my graduation, my individual final year project was awarded the "Buckley Prize" as the best 60 credit undergraduate project in the School of Computing for its academic year.

Honours & Awards

The Buckley Prize


My final year project (dissertation) was awarded the "Buckley Prize" as the best 60 credit project in the School of Computing for the academic year 2016-2017.

Head of School Scholarship


Recipient of the "Head of School" scholarship for my first-year performance at the University of Leeds.

Cyta Award


CYTA is the national telecommunications provider of Cyprus. Every year CYTA awards final year students who achieve the highest examination result in Computing.

European Creativity and Innovation Challenge


I was one of the five people who represented Cyprus to the JA-YE European Creativity & Innovation Challenge in Brussels after qualifying in Cyprus. As a team, we were challenged to solve a given problem with an innovative idea and give a pitch of the idea in less than five minutes to a committee.