Carnegie Mellon University

Siddha Ganju, Senior Data Scientist, Author and Mentor

Elevating Computer Vision and Future Scientists

An internationally-recognized expert in AI, Siddha Ganju (SCS 2016) makes cars drive themselves and maps distant meteors in the night sky. She specializes in the data-intensive computing task of interpreting visual data. At the computer systems design services company NVIDIA, she leads teams working on advanced driver-assistance systems in pursuit of autonomous vehicles and medical instruments. She also works with NASA’s Frontier Development Lab on deep-learning tools.

“The neural networks replicate a scientist’s thought process to distinguish a meteor from other objects in the night sky,” Siddha says. With NASA, she extended the utility of meteor tracking by refining the process to work from different views of the sky. When it was a manual task, scientists were lucky to get data from a single location, a few nights per year. Now, data flows in from multiple locations every night, and computers adjust for variables that can affect the visual data like weather, ambient light in California and fireflies in Australia.

At NASA, Siddha’s work introduces AI into space science, and the technology that powers these projects has the potential to change the way we live our daily lives. Siddha sees her contribution as both refining computer vision acumen and applying it to new problems.

“It’s living science, where everything is changing all the time. So you have to make sure that the software is updated often,” she says.

Siddha’s goal is to create advanced, socially responsible applications and share that information with the next generation of scientists. She has co-authored a textbook on AI and mentors high school and college students during hackathons. She sponsors competitions and community networks like SpaceML, which she co-founded. She’s also a mentor and supporter of the CMU-sponsored Learn-to-Race challenge, which encourages safe, autonomous driving.

“When one reaches the top, it's important to remember to send the elevator down. The opportunities I make time to support mobilize younger people into science and build citizen scientists out of them,” she says. “Ultimately, it is that generation who will decide how the world moves forward.”

Story by Elizabeth Speed