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.