Featuring talented PhD Student KRITTIKA D’SILVA

Krittika is currently a Gates scholar and Computer Science PhD student at the University of
Cambridge, UK focused on using spatio-temporal urban mobility modelling to predict changes in cities over time.
Krittika was born in Mumbai, India in 1994 and immigrated to Canada when she was 8 years old. She has thought long about the challenges those in India and other developing countries face and has worked to find ways to use technology to ameliorate the lives of those around the world.
For her undergraduate studies at the University of Washington, she pursued a double degree in Computer Engineering and Bioengineering and worked in three research labs. She designed devices to improve prosthetic sockets for individuals with lower limb amputations, built software for low resource settings, and examined ways to use DNA molecules for long-term data storage.
Krittika has worked at Microsoft Research and Google. In 2018, she worked at the United Nations Pulse Lab in Indonesia, an innovation lab formed within the UN to harness data science insights for policy. In 2019, she worked at NASA using AI to monitor astronaut health in deep space.
She has received the Computer Laboratory Wiseman Award, Gates Cambridge Scholarship, Outstanding Senior Award in Computer Engineering, CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Finalist, Rhodes Finalist, Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award, RBC Top 25 Immigrants in Canada, RBC Youth Award, Mary Gates Research Scholarship, Art Levinson Scholarship, Society of Women Engineers Outstanding Female Departmental Award, and UW Presidential Scholarship.

Undergraduate Research

During her undergraduate studies at the University of Washington, Krittika’s research focused on applying bioengineering and software engineering to address challenges in health care. As a freshman, she began working with Professor Joan Sanders to study the physiological and bio-mechanical issues experienced by lower-limb amputees that impact their quality of life.

During her two and a half years in the lab, she worked on several projects investigating ways to improve prosthetic limb socket fit and comfort.

She also co-authored research papers and presented the lab’s work at conferences around the US Krittika also worked with the late Professor Gaetano Borriello to develop HandWave, an Android library that provides software developers with access to touch-free gestures that can be detected by smartphone front facing cameras. This project addressed the increasing prevalence of smartphones in health care settings, and need for ways workers interact with mobile devices while handling potentially infectious biologic materials.

In 2015, Krittika presented her work on HandWave at the HotMobile computer science conference in Santa Fe, N.M. With the Yager lab, Krittika built an Android application to enable analysis of paper-based diagnostics with a smartphone in low resource environments. Instead of traveling to a doctor’s office, a patient could use the app take a picture of a paper test strip. The app would analyze and interpret the test, and send the results to a health care provider. The app automates diagnosis of infectious disease at the point of care, enabling faster, more accurate treatment and helping limit spread of disease.

Krittika worked with Professor Luis Ceze to explore ways to use DNA molecules for long-term data storage. The lab worked on methods to reduce the amount of space needed to store digital data such as photos, videos and other electronic media. Krittika’s project focused on automating a DNA sequencer protocol, and she created a machine-learning model to analyze patterns in sequencing errors.

Microsoft Research

In 2014, Krittika was selected as one of five interns from around the world to participate in a project with Microsoft Research in Bangalore, India. The team worked with CGNet Swarma, a voice-based citizen journalism platform, to develop an Android application that enables people in remote areas to share critical information affecting their communities. Krittika traveled under the aegis of Microsoft Research India to Chhattisgarh, India, where a lack of basic infrastructure had contributed to severe discontent and fueled a violent uprising. This internal conflict between armed Maoist insurgents and the state has claimed over 10,000 lives. A lack of accountability among government officials persists since the area is remote and disconnected. Problems have gone unreported and unaddressed, as journalists unfamiliar with local tribal languages cannot report on these issues.

Krittika lead a research deployment to address these problems. Living in India for the summer, she worked with Shubhranshu Choudhary, a local activist, to design and build a mobile application that allows journalists in regions with no Internet connectivity to record an individual’s narrative using smartphones. The software made it possible to upload the reports with supporting photographs to a platform where they were translated, reviewed, and shared with the mainstream media. The stories, delivered through multiple media sources to millions of viewers, forced local officials to take remedial actions. It was a challenging project to lead as the process of creating the mobile application required that she work with end users to devise a contextualized experience. It required travel and living in regions with poor infrastructure and sanitation while conducting studies to understand the needs of the targeted users. After the application was deployed, Krittika travelled through the region again to oversee the training of citizen journalists. The mobile application had a far-reaching impact and National Geographic published an article about her work.

Leading this project enabled Krittika to witness firsthand that technology can serve as a transformative tool to improve lives.

United Nations

In the summer of 2018, Krittika worked at the United Nations on the Global Pulse team in Jakarta, Indonesia. The innovation lab was formed to harness data science insights for policy. Krittika used mobile phone data to model internal migration trends in Vanuatu. She worked with a team of individuals which included natural disaster experts from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a social scientist, and other data scientists.

The experience with the Pulse Lab taught her about the importance of translating research insights into practice and has motivated her to pursue a career at the intersection of technology and public policy, a space which is expected to continue to grow with time. The work had tremendous impact for the government of Vanuatu to make better decisions about national resource allocation. Her report was then presented to the government of Vanuatu, a government which does not currently have the capacity to conduct this kind of research on their own.

NASA

This year, Krittika at NASA Ames in Silicon Valley, California examining ways to support astronaut medical care in space. Future NASA deep space missions will require advanced medical capabilities, including continuous monitoring of astronaut vital signs to ensure optimal crew health. Her research examines how we use biosensor data collected from NASA analog missions to train AI models to simulate various medical conditions that might affect astronauts. This research will be used with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to monitor astronaut health in future deep space missions.

Krittika D'Silva(Computer Science PhD Student)

Leadership at Cambridge

Currently, at Cambridge, Krittika serves on a number of leadership committees. She has served on the Gates Cambridge Student Council and led the Cambridge University Real Tennis 2nds Team as its Captain. She is on the Faculty Board of Computer Science and Technology as a PhD Representative. Recently she also served on the selection committee interviewing undergraduates applying to the Computer Science program at the University of Cambridge. She was recently invited by Prince Edward to address a group of donors for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and to play a doubles tennis match with him. She was also invited to meet with Mr. Bill Gates in person twice in the past 3 years.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/krittikadsilva
Website: http://www.krittikadsilva.com

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