Women in STEM: Dr Nadia Kanwal

Our EDI office is celebrating the trailblazing female researchers who are paving the way forward for women in academia and positively impacting our institute.

Dr Nadia Kanwal, post-doctoral fellow in the SRI (Software Research Institute) of Athlone Institute of Technology received her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Peshwar University, Pakistan. In 2008 she started her second master’s degree in the University of Essex, UK which lead her to complete a doctoral degree also in the University of Essex researching low-level image features and navigation systems for the visually impaired. She remains associated with Lahore College for Women University, Pakistan where she is Associate Professor in the Department of Computer science. Since moving to Ireland, she is working as Marie-Curie postdoc fellow/researcher at the SRI in Athlone Institute of Technology. The primary objective of this research fellowship is to investigate and propose technological solutions for the protection of the privacy of the individuals in visual monitoring systems such as CCTV per GDPR guidelines.

The Breakthrough Idea – I am working to develop a computer-vision based solution to protect private data of individuals in CCTV surveillance systems such as faces, clothes, vehicle registration plates, and any other identifiable features.

Innovative Thinking – This solution can protect the individuals’ identity and provide location privacy per the requirements of the application/user. The scope of the project also includes multi-camera input and the use of deep learning techniques for the identifying and concealing the individuals’ identifiable data in video imagery stored on edge or cloud. Furthermore, additional security features will be added to secure this stored data such as chain-of-evidence and chain-of-trust. A role-based access control for video retrieval will be designed to authenticate and cater for different uses such as controllers, law/enforcement agencies and system administrators. Patent filed in 2019.

Challenges - Challenges lie outside the research in providing work/life balance, with a young family and a demanding research project. In addition, the native family support is a gap difficult to fill when I moved to Ireland. Most women are emotionally responsible for everyone’s schedule in the home, and finding time for everything is often a challenge. Juggling “work-life balance” is definitely demanding.

Future Idea Development – the research project will continue to develop learning methods to improve the performance of vision algorithms to enhance privacy protection of individuals per the current GDPR guidelines.

Is there gender stereotyping in your area of work? – “I Think my area of work is remarkable, AIT is a pioneer in researching visual privacy, the first Higher Education Institute to do so. I can compete and work successfully in this domain regardless of my gender.” “I find the working environment in AIT to be diverse, exceptionally good, very encouraging and a life very different from UK.”

“I have the freedom to explore ideas and to have ambitions in a supportive environment at AIT” Dr Nadia Kanwal, Researcher

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