Meet a PhD student – Ananya Gupta
Meet the School 9th July 2018
Please can you describe your research, for the layman, in ten sentences or less?
I am working on autonomous robots for my PhD (think self-driving cars). More specifically, I am working on vision systems for mobile robots so that if a robot enters an unknown area it can scan its surroundings and recognise the objects (e.g. tables, chairs, people etc) without human supervision. These tasks, seemingly simple for human beings, are extremely complicated for robots since they are not aware of their surroundings in the same way we are.
This can also be described as a form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and is done using a technique called Machine Learning where the systems are initially trained by showing them pictures of generic objects. It’s similar to how humans learn to recognise objects as they grow up, they are taught what different objects look like and can then infer surrounding objects from memory and experience.
How can your research benefit the public?
The system I’m working on is targeted to be used at Sellafield for help in automating the process of nuclear decommissioning. Currently, this process is done manually, which is extremely hazardous and time consuming and if they continue at the current rate, it is estimated that the cleanup process could take up to a 1000 years. Hence, our group’s research is meant to automate and speed up this process while reducing the risk to human life.
How did you first become interested in your research area?
I became interested in Machine Learning when I helped build an application to convert sign language to written text using a gesture tracking device during a hackathon. The application used some ML algorithms to train for recognising custom gestures based on the individual. I found the potential of the technology extremely inspiring and it convinced me to pursue the subject. I haven’t looked back since.
Who or what first inspired your interest in Science and Engineering?
I’m not sure if I can pinpoint to the exact moment I became interested in Science and Engineering. I always enjoyed Maths and loved asking questions about how things worked. I figured the best way to alleviate my curiosity was to join the field which is based on the premise of figuring out how and why things worked.
My parents played a big part as well. My dad’s an engineer, my mum did a degree in Science and both of them were amazing role models for what I wanted to do.
Can you tell us a little about your other interests? What do you get up to in your spare time?
I’m an avid Lindy Hopper, you can often find me in a local dance class or social! The UK has an amazing swing dance scene and I try to attend weekend dance camps when possible. I have the uni swing dancing society to thank for introducing me to this brilliant community. Apart from dancing, I quite like a good book and travelling to see a bit more of the World.
How does being based here in Manchester help your work and research?
Manchester is an extremely vibrant city with a lot of diversity which makes it an amazing place to live in and work. Beyond that, the University has a World class reputation in research which is extremely useful for establishing credentials wherever you go.
What course did you study with the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering?
I did my undergraduate degree in Electronic Engineering with Industrial experience where I took a year out in the middle of my studies to work at Intel.
What did you enjoy most about it?
I really enjoyed the practical aspects of the course such as the labs and the projects and they really helped me understand concepts better than learning theory from just books.