Apr 22, 2019 | Atlanta, GA
The Machine Learning Center at Georgia Tech (ML@GT) is home to many amazing students from across campus, representing all six of Georgia Tech’s colleges and the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI).
These students have diverse backgrounds and a wide variety of interests both inside and outside of the classroom. Today, we’d like you to meet Unaiza Ahsan who recently successfully defended her thesis and will graduate this spring with a Ph.D. in computer science.
Hometown: Karachi, Pakistan
Advisor: Irfan Essa, ML@GT Director and School of Interactive Computing Professor
Current Georgia Tech degree program: Ph.D. Computer Science
Other degrees earned: B.E. in Telecommunications and a M.S. in Computer and Information Science Systems from NED University of Engineering & Technology, Karachi Pakistan
Tell us about your research:
My research is about artificial intelligence (AI) agents learning useful visual representations without requiring massively labeled datasets. So, I am interested in something called self-supervised learning. This is where you take the data – videos in my case – construct a pseudo-task out of that data like creating a video jigsaw puzzle, for example, and training a deep network to solve the task. This approach does not require labels and we end up with networks that can recognize actions in videos much better than if we had trained them from scratch.
What are your plans after graduation?
I recently accepted a position as a data scientist with The Home Depot in Atlanta.
What is your favorite conference and why?
I have two. The Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) conference is one because it always gives me great ideas of what to do next in my research. My other favorite is the Winter Applications of Computer Vision (WACV) conference. It’s one of the best events for presenting my research and learning from others in the field. It’s always held in amazing locations in the United States, which also gives me a chance to explore awesome places like Hawaii!
What is your favorite place to hang out on campus or in Atlanta and why?
I used to be scared of biking because I had never really biked before in my life, but now I have come to love it! My favorite place to hang out in Atlanta is riding my bike on the Beltline, which is also fairly close to campus.
What are some of your hobbies?
I love writing poetry! I have scribbled so many poems in between my notebooks full of research, experiments etc.
Volunteer work is also important to me. I love volunteering at Open Hand Atlanta. Their work is really important and I love the opportunity to give back to my community. They deliver nutritious meals to senior citizens all around Atlanta.
I also enjoy long walks and nature in general.
What is your favorite Georgia Tech experience?
Gazing through the amazing telescopes at the observatory in Howey! That was a one-of-a-kind experience! Uh, my thesis defense too...but after it was over!
How would you describe your perfect Saturday?
My perfect Saturday would start with a really good research result, which would make me happy and want to celebrate. I would celebrate by riding my bike on the Beltline and stopping at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams for some well-deserved and delicious ice cream.
My family is back home in Pakistan so I would give them a call before heading off to volunteer for the afternoon. My perfect day would end with having an awesome ‘Desi’ dinner.
Who is someone that inspires you and why?
My aunt, Dr. Asmat Salim. She is a force to reckon with and has been instrumental in my life. She encouraged me to apply for the Ph.D. program at Georgia Tech and has been amazingly happy for me at every milestone. She has won the Paul Dudley White International Science Team Award from the American Heart Association (AHA) for her research, twice(!), all while battling some serious illnesses and supervising her own Ph.D. students in Pakistan
She has taught me to be resilient, no matter what our personal circumstances and that this is one of the most useful lessons we can learn in life.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Earning my Ph.D. in computer science from Georgia Tech! A close contender is when I won a poetry contest in Pakistan. The prize was a summer creative writing course at Middlesex University in the United Kingdom.
What is something that you would most like to create?
I would love to write a book someday, or at least publish a book of poems titled Life as a Ph.D. Student