Mansi Agarwal

The 34th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence 2020 was an enriching experience. It was my very first conference, and it became all the more special, for I got the golden opportunity to present my two full-length papers and a poster. I was a tad bit nervous considering it was my first formal presentation that, too, in front of the pioneers of Artificial Intelligence. My mentors, Prof Jack Mostow and Prof Rajiv Ratn Shah did their best at keeping my morale high, and I owe all my success to them. After my presentations, I was contacted by a lot of researchers, both in person and over mail. Their questions were interesting and helped me pave a path to the future work of my research. Apart from showcasing my work, I also got the excellent opportunity of attending several talks by great professors like Prof. Kraut from CMU. His talk on affective content analysis was similar to one of my research areas. Moreover, there were several exciting presentations identical to one of my papers on damage assessment through social media. The director of “AI for Social Good” at Google Research India, Milind Tambe, showed great interest in our work, which motivated me further to pursue this field as my career.

Apart from attending the technical talks, I also got the once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet the godfathers of AI, Prof. Geoffrey Hinton and Prof. Yann Lecunn. They had been specially invited as speakers at the conference where they discussed their new papers with all the conference attendees.

AAAI 2020 helped me re-realize why I decided to pursue the field of AI, and I have never felt more motivated and confident. I want to thank the entire team of AAAI for giving me this opportunity, and ACM-W to help me grab it.

Maitree Leekha

In this technological era, advances in the field of computer science play an important role in meeting societal needs. From medicine to finance, technological innovations have helped in solving many challenging problems. Specifically, the progress made by scientists in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is paving the way for several revolutionary changes, that has been possible only due to the collaborative efforts made by enthusiasts around the world. I got the opportunity to witness and participate in this collaboration at a whole new level while attending the 34th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence this year.

It was my first big conference as an undergraduate student. I attended several talks given by researchers and professors who I have always dreamt of working with. This not only gave me insights about their work and the current technological trends in academia but also helped me broaden my perspective. I particularly enjoyed a workshop on Affective Content Analysis. Some researchers that I interacted with were working in similar areas as I was, and I enjoyed our technical discussions regarding our ideas and how potentially we could advance them.

In addition to attending these sessions, I also presented four of my projects that had been accepted in different tracks this year; precisely, I had three posters in the Student Abstract Track, and one full-length paper presentation in the AI for Social Impact track. I loved discussing and getting feedback on my work while connecting with peers and professors who were interested in my work. I especially enjoyed the student poster sessions, where I talked to several other student researchers over dinner about their work. I also attended some sessions on building self-confidence and overcoming imposter syndrome, which is something I, as an undergraduate, suffer from now and then.

The silver lining to my conference visit was the talk given by none other than Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun, and Yoshua Bengio. It was amazing to see how far we have reached from the first basic neural network models used long ago!

Finally, I also connected with researchers representing renowned industrial hubs like IBM, Microsoft, Google, Bloomberg, to name some, learning about the research focus of these companies, how has it changed over time, and exploring possible work opportunities.

Overall, it was a great experience that has boosted my interest all the more in artificial intelligence research. I am obliged to ACM-W and Oracle for helping me attend this conference. Further, I would also like to congratulate and thank my fellow researchers and collaborators from Delhi Technological University, MIDAS Lab-IIIT Delhi, Bloomberg-USA, and IBM Research New Delhi, without whom this would not have been possible.

Xaviera Steele

As one could expect, attending my first academic conference was an enlightening experience. I can categorize my new learning into 3 areas: how academia works, how innovation sometimes proceeds within theoretical computer science, and how little I currently know about the field. After conversing with a range of postdocs and PhD students, I have a much more robust understanding of what it’s like to work in academia than I’d managed to get from reading forums and discussing with my professors. I’m glad I got to hear about how my seniors chose their areas of research, the paths they took to their current positions, their thoughts on the pressure to publish, the various other conferences they regularly attend, the teaching positions they’ve held, and many other topics. Additionally, attending other people’s talks gave me ideas for structuring my slides, what level of technical detail is appropriate depending on subject area, and how to deal with displaying code or mathematical figures in slides. Next time I need to create an academic presentation, it will be greatly improved thanks to this experience. More specifically to theoretical CS, I observed the patterns of how frameworks are developed and extended by the research community; how academic programming languages evolve; and how at first there are many different approaches to address a certain question or problem, which will likely eventually be pruned to just a couple of the most successful. To a varying extent I grasped the gist of each talk, but invariably there were central terms or concepts that I was not familiar with, which I took notes on (for example, the behavior and difference between different types of logics, or a basic understanding of Isabelle, Hol, and Coq). I already expected that many of the talks would go over my head, but now I have more concrete view of what areas I’ll study more if I want to be able to follow current research. I think this information will be particularly relevant when considering grad school programs.

Anushka Bhandari

Over the past one and a half years I have been working in the field of Human Computer Interaction for social causes mainly on how technology can be tapped to improve the education of the underprivileged people involved in the Health Sector. My work mainly revolved around developing systems for the Community Health Workers in India to enhance their learning and thus improve the health sector. I was involved in this work through Melange Lab at IIIT Delhi where I worked with a PhD Student (Deepika Yadav) and my professor (Dr Pushpendra Singh). Our work got accepted at CSCW 2019 held at Austin Texas. Thanks to ACM-W Scholarship I got the funds to travel to the venue and co-present the work in-front of diverse set of researchers and professionals from some top companies in the world. This was my first time outside India and first Academic Conference as well , I was extremely excited and nervous at the same time. I also had a Workshop Paper accepted at the conference which was on Ethics in AI in Computer Vision Systems. The conference started on 9th November with the same workshop wherein I was the only participant currently in undergraduate program. After that the first day ended with a networking event where I met with people from all over the world – USA, Europe , Bangladesh, China , Korea , London. My interactions with them made me realise how people of different cultures have similar research perspective and how important it is to know about their varied perspectives and research methods for making sustainable and unbiased systems. CSCW had a varied range of sessions and events : workshops , paper presentations , doctoral consortium , poster presentations , panels etc. I got the chance to attend the Diversity and Inclusion Lunch as well wherein I interacted with leading researchers whose underlying research and scholarly work contributes to Diversity & Inclusion. Being the Creative Head of WiMLDS (Women In Machine Learning and Data Science) Delhi Chapter, I was able to make a lot of contacts ready to conduct Webinars and sessions for the WiMLDS Delhi community. After the workshop days, the Conference started with a keynote by Google’s PAIR(People + AI Research) initiative, which was followed by paper presentations all day with delicious snack breaks in between. On 12th Nov it was our presentation early in the morning which was followed by answering the questions from people following our work. We received valuable suggestions and improvements we will incorporate into our next edition of this work. CSCW also arranged a dinner banquet on the last night of the conference . I met many renowned professors there and discussed about my prospects in higher studies. I also got the chance to network with product managers and senior researchers of many big companies who introduced me to the research positions at their companies. Apart from the conference I also got to explore Austin and enjoy the Texan Culture in the week I spent there. It was the most memorable experience of my life 🙂

Uma Maheswari Gollapudi

For the past year, I have been working on a project that aims at understanding user vulnerability to online radicalization on Twitter, by analyzing various network features and the personal/behavioral characteristics exhibited by users on the network. This was the paper that I presented at the 5th annual International Conference on Computational Social Science. Held at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, the conference took place over a period of four days, from the 17th –20th of July 2019. As I was an undergraduate student at the time, and this was my first major conference, I was quite overwhelmed. I recall preparing for my presentation much in advance and working over various iterations of my talk. I read up on the previous editions of the conference, watched videos on prior talks and looked up and researched on various methods to give an engaging talk. Despite all the preparation, I was quite nervous and jittery, as I flew to the conference with no idea of what to expect.

The city itself was quite beautiful, with amicable people, delightful canals and lovely scenery. IC2S2 was home to people from all walks of life, having different experiences and insights, who had all gathered because of a collective interest in the field of computational social science. Housing various types of events – oral presentations, poster presentations, keynote talks, tutorials, panel discussions and networking sessions, the venue was bustling with activity. My talk was scheduled for the last day of the event, therefore, I spent a majority of the first two days attending fantastic talks and panel discussions, on various topics, ranging from Network Analysis and Finance to Culture, Political Behaviors and Social Influence. The conference further included a series of networking events, such as a Welcome Reception, a canal boat tour and finally, a conference dinner at the Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam, which provided the perfect platform to meet and get to know people who are interested in the same research areas as I was, and thereby engage in exciting and interesting conversations. I met some charming people from countries including Colombia, China, The Netherlands and the UK and we had the chance to chat about everything, from our research goals and aspirations to matters pertaining to our daily lives and beliefs. The last day of the event included my talk, and I believe it’s safe to say, I did a good job. During my talk, I walked the audience through the motivation behind our research and explained the various methods and workings in our project. It was well-received, and there were quite a few interesting follow-up questions from the audience, which paved the way for valuable discussions and further networking.

It was a truly rewarding experience, as not only was I exposed to new ideas and fresh perspectives, I also met new people and got the chance to experience an international research culture. I am extremely grateful for ACM-W for the gracious support provided, thanks to their wonderful scholarship.

Sarthika Dhawan

I got the opportunity to attend The 28th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence(IJCAI) in Macao, China and present my work ‘Spotting Collective Behaviour of Online Frauds in Customer Reviews’. I worked on the problem of detecting fraud reviewer groups in customer reviews during my undergraduate thesis and it got accepted at IJCAI. Being the first author, I got an opportunity to present the same (oral and poster presentation) at the conference.

The conference began with a Welcome Reception at the University of Macau followed by different sessions over the week. Oral and poster presentations, talks, demos and workshops provided a great platform to universities, research organisations and companies for showcasing their research at global level and get useful critical feedback on their work. It provided insights into different areas of research within Artificial Intelligence including machine learning, search, natural language processing, robotics, health care, transportation, etc. Invited talks included topics like AI and Biology, formal methods for design and analysis of robot behaviour, discovering deep learning with different models apart from differentiable ones etc. Networking sessions helped us to connect with an international community of domain experts and glean valuable information from them. Hiring and showcase booths established by several research companies and universities gave an overview about recent developments in various domains and provided several internship opportunities.

Explaining the approach and methodology, along with the motivation for the research problem during the poster presentation allowed in-depth discussions that boosted my confidence during the presentation. It is always productive to have someone critically share their thoughts on our work and suggest their perspective. One-on-one conversations about the poster enabled me to talk about very specific aspects of the research and receive valuable suggestions and improvements to my work. During the oral presentation the audience responded positively and all the queries were answered. Some domain experts were interested in the project and its applications. Universities working in that domain provided me options to apply for higher studies in areas related to my topic. Also as e-commerce websites can incorporate the tool to detect fraud groups, I tried to get in touch with the industrial research professionals and receive inputs on how they incorporate academic research into their products and make it scalable to a larger audience. The conference was very well organized. I fully enjoyed the one-week event with so many interesting seminars and discussions covering various areas. I got to explore the Chinese culture and lifestyle as well. IJCAI 2019 proved to be an experience of a lifetime. I am grateful to the ACM-W Committee for providing support to attend the same!

Kristina Daniels

I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to share my research at this conference. Before this, I had never attended any kind of IT/Computer Science related meeting of shared interest. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but I really enjoyed the events and talks, as well as giving my own presentation. I met some new people with similar interests and was able to get different perspectives of people working in the IT/Computer Science industry. I am also glad that I was able to experience some of the things that Tacoma and Seattle had to offer as well. Overall, I am really appreciative that I was given the opportunity to experience this conference thanks to the ACM-W scholarship.

Brihi Joshi

I got the opportunity to attend The Twelfth International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining (WSDM) that was held in Melbourne, Australia from 11th February to 15th February. For the past one year, I have been working on the problem of detecting collusive blackmarket activities on Twitter, and this work got accepted at WSDM. Being the first author, I was required to present my work at the conference, and being an undergraduate, this was the first time I was attending one! The conference had several kinds of sessions – oral presentations, workshops, tutorials, doctoral consortium and after-event networking sessions. The ones that I liked the most were the oral presentations and the Doctoral consortium. Thanks to the ACM-W award, I was contacted by the conference chairs and asked about my interests. When I reverted by telling that I was interested in pursuing higher studies, they asked the Doctoral Consortium Chairs to accommodate me as an external observer. I was introduced to several PhD scholars from around the world and the interesting problems statements that they were working on. In fact, I was also asked to write detailed reviews on their presentations (based on my limited knowledge) and ask them questions to understand the topics. I also got the chance to establish contact with them even after the conference! The best thing about WSDM is that it follows the single-track presentation format. Thus, all the oral presentations were taking place in the same room. I got exposed to a variety of research domains, and some of the approaches explained by the presenters inspired me to think about my own research problems from a new perspective. During my presentation, I explained my approach and methodology, along with the motivation for my research problem, to a lot of people who came to my poster stand. They questioned me on various aspects of my work — which made me more confident while presenting my work. This was also the time when I got to present my work to some of the most renowned researchers in my field — people whom I had only been following via their work. Some researchers who visited my stand were also interested in long-term research collaborations with my lab, and also provided valuable suggestions and improvements to my work. WSDM 2019 also saw hiring booths established by several research companies. The employment and internship opportunities gained from WSDM were plenty! I stayed in touch with the professors I met in the conference and the connection now established will assist me in my application period for a PhD soon. I also got to apply for a research intern position at 3 of the companies that came to the conference. Apart from the hiring, I had detailed discussions with the Research professionals in the industry about how they incorporate academic research into their products and make it scalable to a larger audience. WSDM 2019 proved to be a very productive visit for me and proved to be an experience of a lifetime. I would like to convey my heartfelt thanks to the ACM-W committee for allowing me to visit WSDM!

Gabrielle LaBorwit

It has always been a dream of mine to attend CHI, but as an undergraduate I didn’t know if I would ever have the chance. When I received the ACM-W scholarship, I was absolutely thrilled. CHI 2019 was such an amazing adventure to have embarked upon. I met and connected with graduate students and professors alike, in addition to some other undergraduates who came. It was especially fun having two other HCI-minded students from my university by my side, introducing each other to new friends and connections everywhere we went. I even got to meet up with some mentors from across the world that I did research with a while back. Another magnificent part of the ACM-W scholarship is that they pair you with a mentor at the conference to help with any questions or advice. My mentor gave me great advice for my future in HCI, told me the story of how she got involved with the field, and explained what a day in the life of someone in her work position is like. Overall the mentorship was an incredible addition to the already wonderful conference.

In regard to the paper sessions, there were so many to choose from that I never felt bored. I sat in on panel discussions about research ethics, learned about the accessibility options that companies are exploring for their users, and so much more. It was also great to have had the opportunity to attend two of my fellow classmates’ award-winning paper session on data visualizations.

Prior to my experience at CHI, I had always considered the option of going to graduate school but I could never figure out the specific degree in which I wanted to pursue. CHI reinforced my interest in research and gave me some friends, mentors, and motivation to do what I love. I am so lucky to have had this experience and forever will appreciate the generosity of ACM-W.

Alexandra Chronopoulou

Attending NAACL 2019 was a unique and amazing experience. Through the scholarship provided by ACM-W, I was able to travel to Minneapolis, USA in order to present my paper, entitled “An Embarrassingly Simple Approach for Transfer Learning from Pretrained Language Models”. Since I had worked hard for this paper throughout my undergraduate thesis, I was honored and excited by the opportunity to present it to Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Artificial Intelligence scientists from around the globe. This was the first time I attended an international research conference. There, after presenting the paper, several members of the community gave me crucial feedback and we discussed about potential extensions of the proposed approach of my paper. By interacting with them, I realized that the NLP/ML community is open and welcoming. Furthermore, getting to meet people, whose scientific work I had studied and relied on for my first steps in research was a truly rewarding experience, as it motivated me even more to continue working in the field of Artificial Intelligence. Listening to talks from distinguished professors and researchers allowed me to understand state-of-the-art ideas and get inspiration for my own research work. Finally, attending NAACL 2019 solidified my choice of pursuing a PhD in NLP and attempting to conduct meaningful and influencing research in the field. I am grateful to ACM-Women foundation for assisting me in attending this international conference and I will always treasure this experience.

Iliuza Gizzatullina

Hello! My name is Iliuza and I’m 4th year bachelor student in Computer Science, Innopolis University, Russia. I got chance to participate in CHI 2019 conference in Glasgow, UK, winning ACM-W scholarship and here is what I got from the conference. I had 2 goals before I went there – 1) to see the current situation in HCI to be able to participate in the next year conference as an author with the research in retail I work on and 2) to make contacts with other women-scientists in the field. I got the vision of the works presented on the conference and understood that I need to focus more on the vision of future because today’s things already became outdated. One more thing I figured out was that Russia is super underrepresented country in HCI, despite the fact we have so many advanced researches in IT which deserve to be presented on the world conferences. I did a little research after the conference and found that there’s no SIGCHI chapters and only 1 CHI related community in Russia that is located in Moscow, although Russia is huge and has a lot of universities in IT related fields located in other cities (our university is an example, it’s located in Innopolis, near Kazan). During the conference I met numerous successful women in HCI related fields and was inspired by their stories. No one had easy way to achieve what they have now, however, constant work on their values and ideas allowed them to reach their goals. I communicated to these women and participated in Diversity & Inclusion lunch to discuss the topic more. I was fully inspired by those people. Although I knew that women at my university are really underrepresented group (~ 20% of all students), it was a big discovery for me that big work is to be done to inform women about existing opportunities and support them to feel more confident taking leader roles. I’ve supported girls in IT but only those who I know personally. I understood that this support should be done more globally within our university, and then more, on the country level. So now, after the conference, I have new 2 goals:

1. Inform Innopolis University about CHI field and conferences. As one of the steps, I did a presentation for master students where I shared my experience and talked about opportunities to be involved in the sphere.

2. Introduce Innopolis University women into opportunity of science career, conference participation.

Vrinda Mittal

Attending the 5 days of attending the conference in Brighton was an experience for me. Everyday I would catch the 8 am train from London to Brighton to attend the conference. On the first day I must admit, I was a bit overwhelmed at the venue. There were so many people form all over the world students, professors alike. Though I had the conference schedule with me and my advisor was also there with me , I was very nervous initially. But, then I started with interacting with students who very giving poster presentations. I attended the plenary talks every day given by various professionals from the industry like Corinna Cortez from Google and Misha Dohler , professor at Kings College in London. Their talks really opened my mind to the various fields out there where innovation is taking place specially in terms of the applications of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

My presentation for my research paper was on the last day of the conference in the early morning slot. I was hardly able to sleep the night before due to anxiety. I speant the train ride rereading my research paper again and again in order to be able to handle any difficult questions that audience may ask with confidence. I was at the venue by 7:30 am, though it was early and doors had not been opened yet. I got to interact with a professor who was also waiting for the doors to open. Talking to him helped, I felt more confident. After rehearsing ouside the room for my presentation I finally went in and gave the presentation. It was the best feeling I ever got. I wasn’t sure if people would appriciate and like the work done by our team. But I was pleasantly surprised at the questions people were asking. In fact, I even met a PhD student who had previously worked on this project. She told me how that project was shut down as it was to expensive and taking too long. She was happy that someone was looking into this area. That felt very reassuring. Besides the academic side of the conference, the snacks and beverages part of the conference was also something to look forward to. My biggest takeaway from the conference was exploring the various areas that I can work in and making contacts. I hope I get another opportunity to attend a conference in future. Lastly, I would like to thank ACM – W for the financial support they provide and make it all possible.