Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Krittika D’Silva: Remodelling Mobility

By Muriel D’Souza, 20 May, 2019

    Krittika D'Silva, a Canadian Gates Scholar, has received the Outstanding Senior Award in Computer Engineering, Mary Gates Research Scholarship, Art Levinson Scholarship, and Society of Women Engineers Outstanding Female Departmental Award, among other notable recognition.


    When they left their peaceful life back in India, Krittika D’Silva’s parents knew the future had many challenges in store. Moving to a new country exposed their children to much more at a very young age. Luckily, everything happens for the best. Today, they stand tall beside Krittika, their Canadian Gates Scholar.

    “I was born in Mumbai.When I was eight, my family moved to the US, where we stayed for two years before settling in Canada. Moving to a new country and away from family and friends was challenging in many ways. But my brother and I are happy for the opportunities we’ve had since we’ve been in Canada,” says the Cambridge University PhD student who grew up backpacking through the national parks of British Columbia. It took some time for Krittika to figure where her passion lies.

    Her love for Mathematics and Science made Biomedical Engineering an easy choice. However an unexpected-yet-fortunate turn in her career made her inclined to opt for Computer Science. Today she works towards redesigning technology and using spatio-temporal urban mobility modelling to predict changes in cities over time.

    ‘Prosthetic Socket Fit’ might seem like a complex term, but not when explained in the words of this ‘Computer Laboratory Wiseman Award’ winner, “For every human being, the shape of our limbs changes over the day based on the type of our physical activity. A runner will have [a] different amount of fluid in their limbs versus someone lying on the bed all day. And while the shapes of everyone’s thighs vary due to their lifestyle, the size and shape of the socket that is used to fit prosthetics is constant. This can often lead to discomfort, skin breakdown or instability while walking.”

    In her first year as an undergraduate at the University of Washington (UW), Krittika worked in the Biomedical Engineering Prosthetics Lab to find ways to make prosthetic sockets fit better. She has designed devices to improve the prosthetic sockets for people with lower limb amputations. Through force sensors within sockets, her team hoped to study natural changes and inflammation, to ultimately develop more flexible, adaptable and comfortable solutions.

    Previously, the techno-wiz worked on ways to use DNA molecules for long-term data storage. “We collect 2.5 exabytes of data every day. This data is generally stored on tapes or hard disks, which are unreliable long-term storage systems. Using DNA to archive data is an attractive possibility, because it is dense with a raw limit of 1 exabyte/cm3 and an observed half-life of over 500 years,” says the UW graduate.

    After working for the world’s top tech companies like Google and Microsoft, Krittika has her eyes set on her next dream job – working for international organizations such as the United Nations. The brilliant student says, “I expect technology to play a larger role in Development Efforts worldwide. And I hope to support this movement given my background.” On being asked about her favourite place to work, Krittika answers, “It would be hard to pick a favourite organization. I enjoyed my time at Google and the products I helped build are currently used worldwide. However I found the work at the UN Pulse Lab in Indonesia more impactful as it enabled me to work directly with governmental organizations, guiding their future and giving their policies a direction.” The UN Pulse is an innovation lab within the United Nations to harness data science insights for policy.

    Krittika’s truly thrilling moment was being invited to a private estate in Kent (UK) for a day of tennis with His Royal Highness Prince Edward, the son of Queen Elizabeth II. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award winner exclaims, “I played a doubles matches against His Royal Highness and although I lost, I’ll never forget the moment.” Krittika has received the Outstanding Senior Award in Computer Engineering, Mary Gates Research Scholarship, Art Levinson Scholarship, and Society of Women Engineers Outstanding Female Departmental Award, among other notable recognition. In her free time, Krittika loves bird-watching. Her recent fascination is powerlifting. She believes it has changed the way she looks at herself. “This month I competed for the first time at the British Women’s University Championships. While I played sports growing up, I never considered myself strong. Powerlifting has given me more confidence,” says Krittika.

    This summer Krittika will be working at NASA in Mountain View, California, to build AI models to simulate medical conditions that affect astronauts.

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