Priya Pai, a senior at Columbia University, was a 2019 Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship winner and summer intern in San Jose focusing on deep learning. Here, she shares highlights of her experience.
Why did you apply to the Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship Program?
Ever since I could remember, I’ve had a deep love of stories – everything from the small things, like how people came to love the songs they do, to bigger tales of how people found their dream jobs. As an English literature and computer science double major, I have a passion for the ability of tech to help people tell their stories. This passion is what led me to Adobe Research and the Women-in-Technology Scholarship Program.
What made you want to do an internship at Adobe?
I’ve always been inspired by Adobe’s mission of creating tools for people to tell their personal narratives in creative ways. I applied, in hopes of meeting and learning from other people who thought like I did, who saw tech and storytelling as intrinsically intertwined. After receiving the scholarship, I was given the rare opportunity to do research for my first time in a field I had never touched before: deep learning. To say I felt out of my league was an understatement. Upon meeting my mentors, Fabian Caba Heilbron and Joon-Young Lee, it was immediately evident that my mentors were there to support me and help me develop the research in a direction that allowed me to incorporate my passions and learn as much as possible.
What was the focus of your internship project?
In my research project, I chose to focus on how deep learning could be used to generate digital video narratives on mobile – given all of the massive amounts of video we are dealing with (and taking!), how can we use deep learning techniques to find the most meaningful moments and eventually create stories? I molded this project to fit right into my love of narrative, but I went out of my comfort zone by committing myself to learn the current deep learning technologies and experimenting with how they could be manipulated for mobile story-driven purposes.
The project was challenging at times and I struggled to make as rapid progress as I was used to in college; however, my spirits were kept high by the incredible researchers and interns around me. All of the researchers at Adobe exude an excitement for what they do, and that excitement is incredibly contagious. After a frustrating stream of hours stuck on a bug, I would meander to the break room and immediately find so many people eager to help, hear about the development of my project, and share their own project news. I would laugh and smile and see the passion for their projects practically spilling out of them and feel so re-energized and motivated to keep working hard on my own project.
What did you take away from your internship experience?
I left Adobe feeling proud of and grateful for my time there. I learned so much from my mentors about the future of deep learning, conducting CS research in industry, and developing a meaningful research project. I built so many precious friendships with my fellow interns that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Finally, not only was I able to combine my love of narrative with my skills in technology, but Adobe valued and encouraged this interdisciplinary work wholeheartedly. Adobe helped me realize that tech truly is a space for people like me – those who can’t fit their passions in a single box. I hope to carry my many passions wherever I go, as I finish up college and start my new career somewhere, remembering everything my time at Adobe taught me this summer.