Sarath Chandar's story

Q1. What is your academic background?

Ans. I did my Bachelors in Computer Science at Anna University, India. After that I completed my Master’s   at Indian Institute of Technology Madras. Before joining UdeM for my PhD, I woked for IBM Research India for one year as a Research Software Engineer.

Q2. What is your project about and how do you like it?

Ans. At UdeM, I am working on Natural Language Understanding. The goal of my research is to design machines that can understand human language. As specific applications, I am focussing on machines that can converse with humans (Dialogue systems) and answer your questions (Question-Answering). To achieve this goal, I am heavily using Deep Learning, which is a sub-field in Artificial Intelligence. I am very  excited about this project as language understanding in the field of computer science  is one of my primary interests.

Q3. What interests you in what you are doing?

Ans. Language understanding has always been fascinating to me, right from my undergrad days. During my MS at IIT Madras, I was working on designing systems that can understanding multiple languages (Multilingual Representation Learning). Dialogue systems and Question-Answering are the central challenges in Natural Language Understanding and hence I decided spend my PhD years on solving these problems. I might not solve these problems within few years of PhD, but this experience will be helpful for me to continue this research even after my PhD.

Q4. What do you like about UdeM?

Ans. I am working at Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA), UdeM. MILA is one of the pioneers in the field of Deep Learning and I am fortunate to have Yoshua Bengio, who is one of the leaders in the field of AI, as my guide. I am also co-advised by Hugo Larochelle from Twitter Cortex Lab.  As a non-French student, I have never faced any issues with the department activities so far. Everyone is very supportive. Overall, this is a very productive research environment for students interested in working in Artificial Intelligence.

Q5. What advice you would like to give to prospective PhD students ?

Ans. PhD is not the ultimate degree. Instead, it is just a starting point to the endless ocean of research which constantly improves the life of the human race. PhD also requires a big commitment to what interests you. It is very easy to get demotivated, especially in the first two years of your PhD. I would encourage the students who are not certain if they need a PhD to work in a research lab for one or two years and get the taste of research. This willhelp them to decide whether they need a PhD. Finally, if you are interested in working in Artificial Intelligence, Université de Montréal is one of the best universities in the world.

Q6. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Ans. My career goal is to become a professor in Indian academia. In 10 years, I see myself as a professor at one of the IITs.

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