Finding a Landing Place from which to Launch a Career in Computer Vision
As early as grade 10, Thai Nam’23 was interested in robotics. Now, with coursework in computer science and math backed up with practical experiences, computer vision is his focus. And he’s having a great junior year.
The faculty-student ratio at Beloit has proven ideal. For Thai Nam, that has translated to ease of communication with faculty and, as a result, opportunities to serve as a teaching assistant, do research, and even become a “sidekick,” to use Thai Nam’s term. Faculty also offer helpful advice.
In fact, already in Thai Nam’s first year visiting professor of mathematics Mehmet Dik offered to teach him how to do research when Thai Nam took a course with him. That led to a collaboration in which they created an algorithm to track COVID cases around the world. With an error rate of just 2.5%, the work led to publication of a book chapter with Hoang Anh Ngo and professor Dik on applying Grey Systems theory to mathematical modelling to predict the spread of COVID-19.
Thai Nam then used the algorithm created during the research to help the Vietnamese Ministry of Health predict COVID infection rates in the country. The math and coding skills developed at Beloit also equipped him detect errors in solar panels for a Vietnamese company owned by a friend. He has also worked as an applied scientist for for VinBrain in Vietnam, processing MRI images to scan for and detect tumors and to determine if they are benign or malignant.
“Beloit has been a great landing place for me. Its very far from home, but the faculty are great. They’re very encouraging. Mehmet Dik taught me how to do research and Ranjan Roy taught me to love mathematical theory when I took linear algebra with him. Until then, I’d really disliked theorem-based math.”
Up next for Thai Nam is the Oak Ridge Science Semester in fall 2022, where he hopes to work on data visualization and machine learning projects. Ideally, he will follow that with an honors term at Beloit engaged in further research as preparation for doctoral studies.
“A doctorate will put me in a position to pursue the research in machine learning and computational visualization that interests me. I plan to apply to doctoral programs in the U.S., but may add universities in France, Switzerland, or Korea depending on the research being done at them.”
Thai Nam was attracted to Beloit by its location in a somewhat rural area and its campus community. He also liked its proximity to Chicago, which he visits once or twice each semester. “I really like getting together with friends from home who go to college in Chicago and taking advantage of the good Vietnamese food available there.”
As Thai Nam reflects on his time at Beloit, he realizes how much he has learned as a Beloit College student. In addition to benefiting from the individualized attention he’s received from faculty members, studying half way around the world from home has taught him to be self-motivated.
“I’ve learned not to stand still, and that the sky is the only limit. I try to get better every day, and to always find ways to move forward. I’ve also learned to speak to my advisor when I encounter problems. Prof. Dik, for example, has not only helped me learn to navigate research, but life.”