Seminar, Guest Speaker Explore Potential of AI/Machine Learning

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Seminar, Guest Speaker Explore Potential of AI/Machine Learning
Arnav Gupta ’24

Arnav Gupta ’24, a student in the spring-semester seminar on the emerging field, reflects on the course and on the impact of Dr. Heather Couture’s sharing of her work.


From chatbots to autopilot driving machines, machine learning is so pervasive that we probably use it dozens of times a day without realizing it. To provide cutting-edge educational opportunities and equip students with the knowledge and skills to thrive in the digital age, Ravenscroft introduced the Advanced Seminar in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) last year.  

In this class, we learned about AI techniques and ML algorithms. We explored the intricacies of reinforcement learning, neural networks, deep learning and natural-language processing and their diverse range of applications. We also grappled with ethical issues and gained insight into how we can lead ourselves and others in creating AI systems that benefit humanity. In the end, everyone developed their own project integrating AI/ML concepts, such as AI Cartoon Sketch Maker (which I created) and Facial Recognition System. 

To expand on the knowledge gained in the class and educate us about real-world applications and potential career paths, our teacher, Ms. Anna Lawrence, wanted to invite an industry expert.

I suggested Dr. Heather Couture. I became acquainted with Dr. Couture’s work during my internship at 4th Vector Technologies. She is an entrepreneur, researcher, machine-learning consultant and a Ravenscroft parent. She has completed a master’s degree in robotics from Carnegie Mellon and a Ph.D. in computer science from UNC-Chapel Hill. The extensive work she does through her company, Pixel Scientia Labs, which provides custom solutions to image-based problems by applying artificial intelligence to images to help science, is truly inspiring. 

At top, guest speaker Heather Couture (second from right) with seminar students Sophia Hopper ’24, Arnav Gupta ’24, Kyle Coats ’24 and Neil Nainani ’24; at bottom, three different images created from a photo of the Keim Center’s Innovation Lab using the AI Cartoon Sketch Maker Arnav developed as part of the class.

At top of page, the images are combined: original photograph, cartoon sketch, colored pencil sketch and ink sketch.

Dr. Couture spoke about how she uses computer vision and image-recognition techniques in tracking power-plant emissions from satellite images, reducing the effect of greenhouse gases, and in analyzing human tissues to predict signs of breast cancer and tumors. She also provided guidance about college pathways and courses to focus on to gain a solid foundation and succeed in this field.

Her talk taught me how we can harness the power of AI/ML to address real-world challenges. As a person who is deeply enthralled by the implementation of AI in health care, I was encouraged to think outside the box and look at problems through different lenses. I learned how AI can be used to help improve the quality and affordability of health care by automating tasks and increasing efficiency, which can help save many lives across the world. 

It was truly fascinating and engaging to hear Dr. Couture, and everyone was enriched with new knowledge and was inspired by her intellect. In the words of another student, Kyle Coats ’24:

For someone like me, who is currently engrossed in the creation of an image-recognition model focused on face detection and identification, her real-world examples were not only enlightening but also served as practical guides. It was truly inspiring to see the theoretical aspects we learned in class put into action to solve tangible issues. Dr. Couture’s pioneering approach to problem solving has expanded my outlook on the vast potential and adaptability of AI in addressing intricate problems. The profound influence of artificial intelligence in our world is undeniable, and engaging with field experts like Heather Couture provides us, the students, a unique opportunity to comprehend the practical aspects that extend beyond our academic curriculum. Such interactions not only deepen our understanding of the subject matter but also spark our passion for further exploration in this dynamic and fast-paced industry.

Listening to a leading industry expert like Dr. Couture benefited us all. We learned a lot from her and her experiences. I look forward to connecting with even more industry experts to continue discovering the vast developments in this ever-changing industry. I hope that more classes at Ravenscroft will invite guest speakers to discuss the practical applications of their subjects and prepare us for a future of boundless opportunities.