Hard work and ones passion for learning can inspire and instil the same in others!
Dr. Faisal Qureshi is an associate professor and undergraduate program director of computer science at UOIT. He is also the founding director of the Visual Computing (VC) lab. His research within the VC lab focuses on problems within computer graphics, sensor networks and computer vision.
Can you tell us about your roots and how you ultimately arrived in Oshawa?
So I was born in Pakistan, I did my undergrad there and I got the commonwealth scholarship there for higher studies. Initially I thought of going to the U.K. (United Kingdom), but I thought Canada would be a better option, mostly due to its proximity to the U.S. (United States) where most of science and technology takes place. So I ended up coming to Toronto and U of T, I did my PhD there and then I came to teach at UOIT.
Did you notice any major differences between how schooling works in Pakistan versus the west?
I mean I did (my) undergrad in Pakistan so grad school is very different. I mean back then we didn’t use much technology. In Pakistan the university system is very different, I went to public university, which is completely free, but in order to get into it you need very high grades, but in Canada that is not the same. You don’t need very high grades to go to school, so the kind of students going to university, they are different, and how they interact with each other and their teachers are different, so yes there are differences.
Tell us what you do and how you do it.
I am a computer science prof and what that entails is that I do both research, so I have a lab, a number of grad students, I also teach at the grad and undergrad level. In terms of my research area, I do work on computer vision, which is the technology and science behind computational models that we can use to understand images.
How and when did you get interested in this area of expertise?
I think now its been 20 years, even as an undergrad I was interested in computers and I was interested in photography and images and I remember looking at work where people were analysing images to try to find objects in images and that’s how I became interested.
What makes your topic of research relevant?
In recent times computer vision is becoming increasingly relevant. If you want to design robots for example that can interact with you that can move around in the environment then these robots need to be able to perceive their environment and one of the sensors that we can use are cameras. Similarly, if you are looking at autonomous vehicles, most of these autonomous vehicles are becoming possible because of advances in computer technology.
Who inspired you along the way?
Both of my parents were teachers at some point, so you know I always wanted to be a teacher, and that’s the reason why I’m here really.
Tell us what projects you’re involved in.
So right now I’m looking at new ways to summarize video. So I’m noticing that more and more people are recording large amounts of video using GoPro cameras or something and I’m looking at automatic ways to compress them, to summarize them so we can view them. I’m also working on similar projects in the lab.
What is the most important thing in this field you think people should know?
I think computer science is the hardest field right now. Computers are being used everywhere, so I mean someone who has good skills in computer science combined with good analytical skills, critical skills and writing skills, I think those people can do very well.
What’s your favourite part of research?
I see research as simply exploration, so when you start a project you find out what might work and what might not work. It’s hard work to make things work but when everything comes together, it’s exciting.
What’s the toughest challenge you have faced in this research?
I don’t find anything really challenging, I wish there was better funding mostly for students.