India is a land of many tongues. This linguistic diversity available in the country has attracted linguistic researchers to the country, however, this change in language after every several miles creates a problem of communication for the tourists and travellers. This is where natural language processing, a branch of artificial intelligence, is trying to make a difference. Dr Shreya Goyal, an alumnus of RBCDSAI, IIT Madras and currently a research scientist at American Express, has worked towards solving one such problem in natural language processing for Indian languages through her research.
Born in the Alwar city of Rajasthan, Shreya spent her childhood in different parts of the country due to her father’s transferable nature of the job. Intrigued by mathematics, computers and the idea of automation using them, is what excited her about computer science and therefore she decided to pursue engineering in this field by enrolling in MBM Engineering College, Jodhpur. To have a deeper knowledge of computing and algorithms, she joined IIT Jodhpur for a master’s program and continued for PhD in the area of computer vision with applications in natural language processing. During PhD, her work revolved around developing computer vision algorithms for understanding the finer details of document images and generating their interpretation in natural language. In the course of her PhD, she also worked as a visiting researcher in the Information Sciences Institute, USC, Los Angeles and Ryerson University, Toronto, which was the ultimate boost for her research career.
Once done with her PhD, she joined RBCDSAI, IIT Madras for Postdoctoral research with Prof. Balaraman Ravindran and Dr Mitesh Khapra. Working in RBCDSAI, with some of the finest researchers in India, she considers her biggest achievement in life. In RBCDSAI she worked on various projects such as understanding civil infrastructure using computer vision algorithms, creating NLP models and datasets for Indian languages. Apart from research work, Shreya was involved in organizing conferences and symposia at RBCDSAI and therefore considers RBCDSAI as a good platform for her development. Currently, she is working in the American Express AI lab as a research scientist where her work is more in the fintech domain. There, she is currently working on problems like salary estimation, understanding complaints from customers, fraud detection. About the future of NLP, she says, NLP has come a long way from understanding semantics to various other applications but believes that the need of the hour is the explainability of these models.
Apart from research, Shreya loves to cook, read books and do outdoor activities in her spare time. She agrees that girls are hesitant to make a career in science research due to the long and challenging path but advises them to not give heed to the objections of society and stay focused on their goals.