By: Liz Inman
EDUCATION: B.Tech. Computer Engineering College of Engineering Pune, India; Ph.D. Computer Science, Stony Brook University
RESEARCH INTERESTS: Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing
CURRENT RESEARCH: My research is centered around text analysis in two contexts: to understand events and characters in books, and to characterize users on social media (particularly Twitter). I am developing algorithms for natural language understanding on two ends of the spectrum: short tweet-length documents, and long book-length documents. These algorithms will help us leverage text as a means to understand people and different aspects of their personality, along with how they interact and influence other people. For instance, tweet analysis can be used for generating excerpts of high-volume Twitter profiles, and book analysis can be used for automatically generating plot summaries.
FUTURE GOALS: I want to apply my research at the intersection of data science and natural language processing to make life easier at scale, by closing communication gaps that stem from diverse languages.
Why did you want to be a part of GWiSE?
I presented a poster in the STEM Research Showcase last semester. I found the experience very enriching, as it facilitated interaction with many female colleagues in other disciplines. The panel discussion of senior women scientists was very inspiring. I would love to help in organizing such events, and give back to students who may be looking for the same inspiration – that’s what made me want to be a part of GWiSE!
What/who got you interested in your field?
My father has worked as a software consultant in the industry for more than 30 years. I’ve been hearing anecdotes from him since childhood, and have always loved math, so I was keen on exploring the commonalities between math and computers. Transitioning from basic math to logic to digital systems to algorithms, I was captivated by the speed and scale of the impact that computer science has had on the world, and the avenues that are still unexplored. That’s what influenced my decision to become a computer scientist.
When did you know you were interested in pursuing a degree in science/engineering?
I was blessed to have a brilliant science teacher in high school, who presented concepts in realistic ways with practical examples. Seeing his scientific rigor, I was drawn to science, and decided that I wanted to pursue it further.
What do you think needs to happen for there to be more women in science/engineering?
Women who are already in science/engineering should proactively ensure that junior women are aware of and have access to various opportunities that expose them to the field, and that their female colleagues have a safe space to talk about any issues they may be facing.
Name one achievement/award/moment that you are proud of and why:
I was a member of my undergrad institute’s robotics team. We won the 1st prize at National Robocon in my senior year, having been runners-up the year before. I’m proud of the team effort, dedication, and spirit of persistence – and I’m glad to have been a part of it!
Favorite way to spend a free day:
Binge-watch a sitcom, read Harry Potter, and cook a nice meal 🙂
Most interesting place I have visited:
Snorkeling in Thailand, where the fish nibbled pieces of bread off my hands!
If you didn’t have to sleep what would you do with the free time?
Read lots and lots of books! I was an avid reader as a kid, but lately I haven’t found time to keep up the habit.
Best sunrise seen to date:
Mahabaleshwar – a hill station in Maharashtra, India
What is your most treasured memory?
I have been a part of Regatta (my institute’s unique boating festival), all 4 years of my undergrad studies. My journey from participant -> organizer -> scriptwriter -> narrator is one that I hold dear. My most treasured memory is the eve of Regatta in my senior year. As the participants in 16 brightly lit boats created beautifully synchronized formations, I narrated the 30-minute historic story centered around the theme. My four-year journey with the show culminated in this thrilling experience, with more than a thousand spectators.
Here’s a link to the show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mt6T80rj01Q
Name one thing you started in the last year that you are glad you did and why:
I’ve recently started practicing Yoga and Pranayama. It keeps me calm and focused, and I’d like to keep practicing it regularly.
If your childhood had a smell, what would it be?
Petrichor – The fresh smell of earth during the first rainfall after summer
If you were given two million dollars, how would you spend it to benefit the most people?
In the rural parts of India, poverty has deprived millions of women and men of education. I would use the money to set up literacy initiatives in such villages.
If you could only live in one area (city/beach/mountains/desert/plains) for the rest of your life, where would you live and why?
I would love to live in the beachy areas of Konkan, along the western coast of India. I’ve travelled there many times… the straw huts, coconut trees, calm ocean waves, and delicious alphonso mangoes are all treats for the soul!