SoC PhD Student Wins The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship

by Toh Tien-Yi

24 July 2013 - Dr. Anita Borg (1949–2003) was a visionary computer scientist who transformed conventional views on technology and was committed to removing the obstacles that hinder women and minorities from working in technological fields. As a tribute to her, Google established a scholarship to encourage and inspire active involvement, leadership and excellence of women in the fields of computing and technology. This year, fourth year SoC PhD student Sharmili Roy has been selected as a recipient of The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship: Asia Pacific, from a diverse pool of applicants from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia and India.

Sharmili’s PhD research involves improving the accessibility and effectiveness of biological and radiological images with the use computer graphics, image processing and computer vision technologies. In one of her joint projects with Cornell University, she was involved in developing a software framework that allowed for the automatic generation of a 3D animated report that would present radiological findings visually, in a way that can be understood by non-experts such as patients. This technology not only improved the reporting methods of the radiologists, but also did not require any changes to their workflow, thus allowing it to be adopted and integrated into health care systems easily. She is currently working on a system that will be able to quickly detect and classify tumours from multi-phase CT images, which she hopes will be useful for daily clinical health care. Before commencing her PhD at NUS, Sharmili achieved the second highest entrance examination scores to secure a placement in the highly sought after Indian Government’s Indian Engineering Services (IES). She was the only woman in the top 10 and only one of two women selected that year (2006).

One portion of the scholarship application that Sharmili found challenging was where she was asked to ‘write a business proposal for the next big product/technology that can revolutionize the market’, explaining that technical students (like her) generally do not have a lot of exposure writing business documents. Her supervisor Associate Professor Michael Brown, however, was able to help her with her application. She also felt that her strong references, and the fact that her projects were easily applicable to real world problems, may have given her an edge over other applicants. “I am very excited to receive this award, especially because of it being international and awarded by one of the biggest firms in our field. I am happy that I am able to place NUS amongst the winning universities for this award. I hope my success gives inspiration to other students at SoC to apply for this scholarship and we win it every year.” said Sharmili.

When she’s not writing algorithms to detect defective genes in mutant mice, Sharmili enjoys playing board games, going Bollywood dancing and trekking.

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