What's your name, nationality, current function, and department?
My name is Feyisayo Olalere, and I am from Nigeria. I am in the second year of my PhD at the DCC. I am in the Artificial Cognitive Systems group of Prof. Marcel Van Gerven.
What is the topic of your PhD project and what does your work look like in practice?
In plain words, the title of the project is; Using Artificial Intelligent Models to Improve hearing for cochlear implant (CI) Users. In everyday situations, a person who has no need for a cochlear implant could have a conversation at a party, even though there are multiple people speaking at the same time and music playing in the background. However, people with CIs cannot do this. The conversation becomes difficult once there are multiple people speaking at the same time. Unfortunately, this is what daily life entails, from crossing the road to having a conversation with the family at a dinner table. In this project, we want to develop processing methods using artificial intelligence, that will help CI users focus on a target sound in the presence of these background noises.
To this, we train deep learning models that take in this noisy input audio and give as output, the audio where the target sound is amplified and the noise is attenuated. My work ranges from generating or gathering realistic data to train these models, to formulating the models and testing them on users.
On a day-to-day basis, I am trying to improve the performance of my model at this task. This could entail reading relevant literature, brainstorming with my supervisors, and running experiments with the models.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I wanted to be a Neurosurgeon for the longest time. I was really inspired by Dr. Ben Carson. But I think almost every child around me wanted to be a doctor or an engineer, so this society was a big influence in forming that interest.
What has your career path been so far and how did you come to your current position?
In high school, I was on the science track because I was sure I wanted to study medicine. However, towards the end of high school I was exposed to Computer science and in the end, I decided to pursue that in my bachelor's. While getting my bachelor’s in computer science, I had a course in Artificial Intelligence which excited me. So, I decided to pursue a research masters in AI at Utrecht university. I really enjoyed the research aspect and wanted to do research on topics related to AI and its application to helping society. I saw the topic of my PhD and it was a perfect fit for my interest. Thankfully, I was accepted!
Who inspires you the most and why?
That would be my Family. I have seen them love me passionately and give up a lot to ensure I pursue my dream. They inspire me to commit fully to everything I do and pursue it till I get it. My parents and my siblings are my greatest inspirations.
What does your perfect weekend look like?
Honestly, a perfect weekend is one when my Saturday allows me to be a couch potato and not feel guilty about it. I would binge on my favorite series, eat junk and go to bed happy. On Sunday, I would go back into society, have a good time at Church and hang with friends after.
Do you have any handy PhD project-related tips and tricks to share?
Take a deep breath, you are doing better than you think. A PhD is a marathon not a sprint, so celebrate your small win and be optimistic. Do well to voice out problems you might be facing in your research early. People want to help you and no one thinks you are an imposter.