Meet the Researcher: Reenu Mohandas

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Reenu is a CONFIRM PhD Student based at the Univeristy of Limerick

” Studying and working in STEM has always given me the chance to move with the pulse of the world by staying in touch with advanced technologies.”

Tell us a bit about your research...

Recently, I have been involved with research to develop visually intelligent systems that could be used for human assistance. The images/videos from any CCTV or surveillance cameras can be captured and processed. These images are then used to conduct detection of particular objects of interest. For example, if we have to secure a lab or area and not allow any humans to go nearby the facility, we can develop a person detection system. Such a system can detect persons(humans) with great accuracy like 99% and may be integrated with any alarm system. Once a person is detected in the area of interest, the alarm will go off and any necessary action can be taken.

The person detection system was then developed into an identification system, where the people, if they are already known, will be identified. This can again be attached to a chatbot, a software that can engage in conversations. So a chatbot can engage you in conversation if the person is identified. Such a system has been in development to work as a virtual office assistant.

What did you study as an Undergraduate?

I completed my Bachelors in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala, India in the year 2011. During my studies there, I gained knowledge about Digital Signal and systems and Digital Signal Processing which gave me the basic idea of Image Processing. My final year project was Density and Priority Based Traffic Control System using Computer Vision in ARM processor(group project), where I started my work with Image Processing and Computer Vision.

Following that, I did my first Masters (M.Tech, 2012-14), from India, in Computer Science and Engineering with Specialisation in Digital Image Computing. After my first masters, I took a short break from studies and worked as a web developer with a company in India(until Dec, 2016). In 2018, I joined for my second Masters, in Ireland, in Artificial Intelligence(MSc, Level 9) at Cork Institute of Technology, currently, Munster Technological University.

The MSc in AI was a great opportunity to expand my knowledge in advanced technologies and work more with visual data that could be used for Machine Learning, Deep Learning and creating intelligent computer vision-based systems.

What made you decide to go into research?

The more I get to learn, the more interesting it became to work with image data and the wonderful things achievable through research. With my background in understanding and analyzing Image data, I could easily work with image datasets and use them to train Artificial Neural Networks to create intelligent systems. It had always been interesting as well as challenging to create assistance systems using visual cognition and deep learning.

What do you enjoy most about being a PhD Student or Post-Doc?

Being a PhD student, I enjoy the opportunity to develop assistive systems which could make human life better. I have been involved with projects relating to the development of visually cognitive systems using deep learning, currently a very effective method for object detection and tracking. I was able to develop a mask detection system, where the people without face masks will not be allowed to enter the facility and their photograph will be captured along with all details of date, and time so that this information could be later used for contact tracing which was important in the times of COVID-19 pandemic. This is a very good example of an assistive system because if a human needs to monitor face masks, he/she is also exposed to a large number of people which by itself is a risk in case of an infectious disease like COVID-19.

Could your research be used to combat any societal issues, such as those experienced during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Yes, I have used my research opportunity to develop an automated mask detection system that could be easily integrated with any access/egress control system. This system could be effectively installed at the entrance of any lab/office spaces where the wearing of face masks is mandatory. This system can work with minimal human intervention, which had proved to be very helpful in the current COVID19 crisis.

Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about a career or research in STEM?

Studying and working in STEM has always given me the chance to move with the pulse of the world by staying in touch with advanced technologies. My advice is to keep up with the technology because, in technology, only change and advancement is constant.

Where can people find out more about the type of work you do?

The research projects I have been working on are based on Tensor Flow, a neural network designing and training framework designed by the technology giant, Google. Kaggle is a website and repository which contains datasets and AI related works, which can give you a good introductory understanding of the works related to Artificial Neural Networks

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