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Narges Norouzi: Faculty

Computer Science and Engineering
Degree Program: 
Computer Science and Engineering
Tehran, Iran
Undergraduate Institution: 
Sharif University of Technology, Iran
Graduate Institution: 
University of Toronto, Canada
Professor Narges Norouzi

Narges Norouzi is a teaching professor in computer science and engineering in the Baskin School of Engineering and  a member of the BSOE Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.  She spoke with us about her research on applications of machine and deep learning in the medical field, and the courses she is teaching in machine learning, AI, and programming. 

What brought you to UCSC?

During graduate school at the University of Toronto, I was teaching three courses, and because I was the most senior student in my supervisor’s lab, I was supervising a number of junior students. I enjoyed teaching and mentoring and wanted to stay in academia. I applied to several places and got a few different offers, but the geographical component of UCSC outweighed all other options. I like the ocean, I like the nice campus, I like the weather. I was in Canada for almost seven years, so it can’t be any better.

What is your current research project? 

My research focuses mainly on different applications of machine learning and deep learning in the medical field for diagnosing different diseases. For example, I am working with the UC San Francisco Epilepsy Lab to try to predict the onset of seizures in patients and detect if there is a way to identify factors that have to do with initiation and termination of seizures so that we can kind of control patients between these two. The other research that I am doing is to see if there is a way that we can mimic the human brain and understand how it is detecting and understanding images and build a deep architecture that has representation layer by layer for image detection tasks. 

Can you tell us about a time one of your research projects has had real-world benefits for patients?

In the project that I was working on for my Ph.D., we were detecting the severity of alcohol withdrawal tremors to see if there was a way that we could quantify that severity of tremors for people who were in withdrawal so doctors could prescribe the correct dosages of medication for those patients. We wrote an application and it was deployed in different hospitals across Canada, and what happened was that after deploying this application the median length of stay in hospitals for people experiencing withdrawal decreased by four hours. I think that this kind of contribution into the medical field as a computer scientist is something novel. 

You are on the BSOE Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Could you tell us a little about what that council does and your role in it?

The council was started about a year ago, and the charter of the council is to review different practices in the Baskin School of Engineering and to make recommendations to the Office of the Dean to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion for students, staff, and faculty. We are doing different projects, making funding recommendations, and writing grant proposals. Specifically what I am doing is I am representing the CSE department, together with Professor Peter Alvero, and I am working very closely with him and our previous undergraduate director, Carmen Robinson, to write grant proposals for different STEM programs. Next year we are starting a program for first generation students so that they get the preparation they need, both programing preparation and mathematical preparation, and will be able to build a community once they arrive on campus.

What class are you most looking forward to teaching this year and why? 

I teach a variety of lower division, upper division, and graduate courses. I like teaching lower division, especially intro to programming, because I like students to come and see a diverse set of faculty on their first quarter on campus. I think that has a good effect on peoples’ sense of belonging. I am also excited about teaching applied machine learning, AI, and machine learning courses. Some of those courses I designed myself, and there is a project component in all of them. I always encourage my students to publish their work in good conferences if they make enough of a contribution, so I see a lot of student work being published. Last year alone I think we published six different papers from six of those projects. It is exciting to see what students can accomplish.

Do you have any advice for underrepresented students in engineering? 

What I can say to all people who are members of any underrepresented community is to always have a mentor by your side. We all have that big picture and try to stick to that big picture, but what happens is that sometimes we lose energy, so if you have someone to talk to to fill up that tank of energy from time to time, that is really important.