The opportunities provided by the University of Sheffield in research are world class

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Mahendra Rathod
Research Intern at VoiceBase
MSc Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence
Since finishing his MSc degree Mahendra has started working as a research intern at VoiceBase. He is taking this opportunity to learn something new everyday and to use the challenges he faces to improve his confidence in his work and research

What are your main responsibilities?
My primary responsibilities are to research the novel algorithms for speaker embedding to enhance the automatic speech recognition (ASR). This includes reading research papers, experimenting different algorithms with ASR tools and finding the solutions that can help the MINI (Machine Intelligence and Natural Interfaces) group of the University of Sheffield integrate to existing framework to enhance their ASR research capabilities.

Can you describe a typical day?
My team is distributed across multiple locations and geographies. A typical day starts by having a morning video conferencing call where team members greet each other and discuss important findings on a specific topic. As the day progresses, I start reading the papers on the topic related to my research. I also do programming on the the existing framework called MINI to integrate various research ideas that leads strengthening the ASR capabilities of the framework. We have group status meetings arranged during the day where all PHDs, Post Docs and Interns share their updates over what they have done and accomplished so far. We also have a readers club where one of the team members presents a new/existing research paper. This helps the entire group increase their knowledge in the areas where they are not able to do the research on. Since our team is small, we get time to take the lunch together. This helps us connect with all colleagues personally and create a bond with each other. As the day progresses, I try to finish my tasks in hand using various tech tools and write down the research summary at the end of the day.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your current role or your greatest achievement so far?
My current role is providing me with great opportunities to learn from the best brains of academics. Their knowledge is like an ocean and I get a chance to dive deep inside to find new knowledge everyday. The most rewarding aspect of my job is the realisation of the impact I am making by my work through research and development of novel solutions.

Are there any challenging aspects? If so what are they?
Research is a long process and getting a breakthrough sometimes takes months and years. All days are not equal. Finding that eureka moment with expected results requires a lot of perseverance and patience and that's the most challenging aspect of this role. As a researcher, I also have to communicate with multiple teams to keep my research in the right direction. However, it's all worth it at the end of the day because the multi-disciplinary competencies developed during the job is satisfactory for me in spite of all the challenges.

What skills/qualifications from your degree or other training do you make use of in your job?
I have learned the core concepts of Machine Learning and Cybersecurity from my masters subject and Speech Processing from my dissertation. These skills are getting utilised effectively in my internship. The practical skills acquired from the University assignments are also helping me a lot to implement some of the core modules in my internship. 

How have these skills or your course made a difference in your career?
Having a skill of artificial intelligence and machine learning is the new norm for tech industry. The skills acquired in my course are relevant to industry. The fact that I have got an opportunity to work as a research intern in one of the renowned speech analytics company and university group shows that the demand for the skilled individuals in AI is strong. I am just getting started and I am so excited what the future holds for me in this industry.

Why did you choose to study at Sheffield?
There are many reasons but the two most important ones are the city and the university. The opportunities provided by the University of Sheffield in research is world class. The computer science department is headed by some of the best professors in the world which makes it competitive across all the universities in the world. As far are the city is concerned, one of the best reasons to study in Sheffield is that the city is geared around student life. For this reason it's a popular destination for UK students, as well as those from overseas.

What were the best things about studying in the Department?
The University of Sheffield computer science department has attained an international reputation for its research and teaching since its establishment. I am so proud to study under the guidance of some of the best professors in my department. The department labs are world class. The subjects, and practical assignments are completely relevant to the skills required by the industry. Moreover, professors are approachable and helpful in every manner possible not only during the studies but after studies too.

What did you like best about Sheffield? (both the University and the City)
As I mentioned the city is so fascinatingly accommodative to student life. And university of Sheffield provides all support towards student life overall.

Where do you see yourself in the future?
Technology is changing rapidly at present. I have chosen to get expertise in the field of speech processing and AI in general. Having said this, I would like to see myself leading the AI wave in the future.

If you could give one piece of advice to current students or recent graduates what would it be?
We don't grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges. Set clear goals with disciplined action plan and work to achieve them irrespective of the challenges you face during your journey.

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