Pramit Saha

 
Developing controllable silent speech interface from thoughts and gestures using deep learning
 
UBC's world-class education and research, its reputation, infrastructure, and lab-facilities, as well as its spectacular campus attracted me to apply.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

While pursuing my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering, I was introduced to some of the brilliant research works in the fields of medical image processing, computer vision, and machine learning, which triggered my interest in further study and research. I profoundly enjoyed my journey of undergraduate research -- which added to my problem-solving capacity and critical thinking ability. Besides, my MITACS research internship at the University of Alberta gave me some hands-on-learning experience which further instigated my passion for research in this direction. So I wanted to pursue higher studies in order to equip myself with the knowledge and skills required to better understand and contribute to the related areas. To me, graduate studies meant the opportunity of getting trained in interdisciplinary subjects that would help me to properly identify the unasked questions in the domain of my interest and to explore the possible solution space with the valuable experience that I gain during my Masters. Therefore, it was indeed a natural choice to opt for a graduate degree.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

UBC's world-class education and research, its reputation, infrastructure, and lab-facilities, as well as its spectacular campus attracted me to apply to UBC in the first place. The MITACS funding, as well as the other funding opportunities and scholarships available for the international graduate students, made it my first choice as a grad school where I wanted to pursue higher education. And I am extremely happy to have taken the right decision of accepting my offer here. Also, the city of Vancouver looked gorgeous and a perfect place to live in. As a result, I was particularly drawn to the University of British Columbia -- one of the world's top 40 educational and research institutes.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

I liked the wide range of courses offered by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Particularly, I wanted to be a part of some of the most exciting works done by Prof Sidney Fels and his HCT Lab. It looked like a perfect opportunity for me to enhance my skills through the courses and utilize those to participate in the lab's attempt to solve these most challenging problems related to human motor control and speech synthesis. The pioneering works of my supervisor and his great reputation in the related field definitely drew me at once to this department.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

I always knew that the UBC Vancouver campus was spellbinding, but I was still amazed when I actually got to experience the astonishing serene beauty of the campus, bordered by the forests and the sea. Besides, the welcoming atmosphere of the University and spontaneous helping nature of the kind-hearted Vancouverites never cease to astonish me.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

I mostly enjoy having weekly insightful discussions with my fellow lab mates and my supervisor on different novel ideas, challenges coming in the implementation of those ideas, as well as finding ways to deal with the challenges which eventually pave the path for solving the issues after consistent efforts. I like the entire experience and especially, the feeling that I am trying to make a tiny contribution to the research community with my limited capability.

What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?

I believe that the greatest challenge in our life is proper time management. Planning the allotment of time in different tasks and activities is key to our material and spiritual success. Time is the most precious asset of human life and utilizing it properly can help in achieving multiple goals that we have. Setting priorities based on our goals and distributing time accordingly and wisely is of utmost importance.

How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?

I think our graduate program is well balanced in terms of study, research, and teaching workloads. Besides, it provides plenty of time to rest, relax, and work on personal development. Furthermore, I am fortunate to have a very encouraging and understanding supervisor. My lab schedule is very flexible and the fact that I do not need to work in a tight lab culture enables me to set my own challenges and attempt to push my limits further. This allows me to prioritize my tasks accordingly and keeps me motivated and productive.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

I did my high school and undergraduate studies in India. The highly competitive environment, the enthusiastic and brilliant minds surrounding me -- working hard to achieve their dreams, the positive vibrance in my high school and undergraduate university (Jadavpur University), the help and support of my family members and friends, always kept me well-motivated to dream big. Particularly, I am indebted to my teachers and professors who inculcated the notion of critical thinking in me, strengthened my fundamentals of mathematics and programming, which have immensely helped me in grasping, implementing, and analyzing new ideas. Besides, my research internships at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT Kgp) have contributed a lot towards understanding what 'research' exactly means. Without all these, pursuing graduate studies would have been different.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I like to spend my spare time cultivating Vedic scriptures for finding answers to the big questions about life, spirituality, science, meditation, culture, universe and everything else. I also enjoy cooking, singing, and playing my harmonium.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

My advice to them would be: always be ready to learn from others, be prepared to move out of your comfort zone (if needed), and be focused towards clearly understanding the basics of the concepts. This is a wonderful opportunity to know your own strengths and weaknesses. There is no harm in not knowing or not understanding something as much as your fellow researchers/students do. The trick is to keep working on the weakness to the point that it becomes your strength. Don't hesitate to reach out to the labmates or the supervisor or grad-advisory committee and staffs in times of problems -- be it research-orinted or non-academic. As my supervisor suggests, having another mind to think about your problem and another pair of eyes to look at your research often helps more than you might actually think! Having said that, take care of your mental and physical health and enjoy your time at UBC!

What was your Mitacs internship, and how did it contribute to your professional development?
The primary goal of my Mitacs Internship was the automatic segmentation of alveolar bone in Intra-oral Ultrasound Images. This bone plays a vital role in periodontal diagnosis. However, it is incredibly challenging to extract alveolar bone from noisy ultrasound images. I presented a novel hybrid segmentation technique involving active contour method with a level set formulation, in order to segregate the bone from the background soft tissue in ultrasound images. My internship took place in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, Department of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta. I want to encourage all other students to participate in Mitacs Internships as it provides a wonderful opportunity to work on challenging problems and develop cutting-edge technologies, get introduced to the best minds and best research facilities in the respective fields. 
 
 
 

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