My journey as an AI Engineer - Minerva Panda, Research Engineer at Niramai Health Analytix

My first encounter with AI and Machine Learning was at the Grace Hopper Conference – India’s largest conference for women in computing, to which I had earned the scholarship to participate while I was in my second year of engineering in 2015. I was fascinated by the capabilities of machine learning, and its vast, untapped potential in creating a healthier, better future.

Hailing from a backward district in a small hamlet of Odisha, I have seen the disparities in healthcare between the rich and poor, like the lack of doctors, access to quality medication, timely treatment etc. This struck a chord with me and I started working on my first project where I crafted a mobile application to solve the problem. This mobile application was selected for showcase at Developer Summit organised by Google India and TATA Trusts. Selected among the Top 5 apps at the Summit, the health literacy app named "Sushruta” featured first-aid videos, report/call to doctor and ambulance, symptoms in regional language that would help users map to diseases.

While working on this exacting application, my interest in Artificial Intelligence grew and I realized while machines should never replace humans, it can assist professionals like doctors, community health workers for early detection and diagnosis.

A contextual care protocol using neural networks and decision trees , that

I built for doctors to track the changing symptoms of patients for effective diagnosis and a solution that can be delivered in remote healthcare centres was selected at the Health Hack 2017 under Innovation in Healthcare by General Electric. This work, as well is accepted in the IEEE International Conference on Electronics Conference on Electronics, Computers and Communications.

Though, studying was like second nature to me, I always believed in practical applications of my knowledge.

I chose to volunteer at Women TechMakers where I was involved with organising tech talks and conducting technical workshops to motivate women to embrace technology. This was a brilliant opportunity for me to meet women from diverse forums. My greatest accomplishment at this organisation was being able to influence a few women to pursue their love for technology and excel in it.

Owing to my dedication to Women TechMakers, I was appointed the Lead and in the past 3 years, I have seen this initiative grow from strength to strength.

My responsibilities included mentoring women in programming, conducting technical workshops on Machine Learning, Android, Cloud etc. and organizing hackathons to encourage an inclusive tech environment for them to thrive.

The power to build things that have a positive impact on real people around, through software engineering and the ability to build softwares that are more efficient and intelligent using AI & machine learning motivates me. This is why I believe in the impact intelligent algorithms can have especially in cancer detection, something I am working on full-time as a research engineer at NIRAMAI Health Analytix.

I would like to encourage young girls and women to dream big, to always be on a look out for problems around and never give up while you are in the process of solving it. Never forget that failures are mandatory experiences to derive learning from and are momentary while you are building great things. JUST NEVER GIVE UP!

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