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The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Environmental engineer awarded Three Minute Thesis prize for applying deep learning to the deep sea

Published: 21 May 2019
Gabriela Sitinova and Jenny Walker
Gabriela Sitinova and Jenny Walker receiving their awards

Postgraduate research student Jenny Walker impressed in the Southampton Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Grand Final with a novel approach of using machine learning to monitor ocean environments.

The Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute researcher tied an audience vote to share the event’s People’s Choice Award with overall winner Gabriela Sitinova.

The pair enthralled a packed lecture theatre with impactful three-minute PhD presentations at the Grand Final, part of the University’s three-week Festival of Doctoral Research.

“I'm amazed to have made it this far and so flattered that I was one of the audience's favourites,” Jenny says. “It's really reassuring, at the halfway mark through my PhD, to have such strong public support for the work that I'm doing. This competition has really boosted my confidence and motivation for scientific outreach.”

Jenny is using machine learning to segment images of the seafloor, with a view to eventually extracting data such as estimated biomass and biodiversity indexes from the images.

The Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholar has also been recently recognised with a Student Poster Competition prize at the International Symposium on Underwater Technology in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

“The oceans contain a huge portion of life on earth and their health is a key indicator to the health of the global ecosystem,” Jenny explains. “There's a serious lack of research into how to adapt deep learning systems, developed for big data problems with thousands of labelled data points, to the smaller, specific problem domain of deep sea imagery. I hope my research will provide a springboard for many researchers after me into this vastly unknown field.”

University 3MT Champion Gabriela Sitinova is exploring new methods of inserting and studying atoms within a spherical Buckminsterfullerene molecule, or ‘buckyball’.

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