GEM Fellows spend the summer immersed in cutting-edge research at Adobe

October 11, 2023

Tags: Careers, Internships

Sofia Ozambela (left), Ryan Aponte (middle), Albright Djokoto (right)

Each summer, GEM Fellows join Adobe Research, immersing themselves in innovative projects that help move Adobe products forward. This summer, seven GEM Fellows joined Adobe Research as interns, and seven other Fellows interned with other groups at Adobe. Their work ranged from building AI models for motion graphics, to reducing gender bias in large-language models, and improving automation testing.

About GEM Fellowships at Adobe

GEM Fellows come to Adobe through the National GEM Consortium, a network of corporations, government labs, and academic institutions that provides STEM students from underrepresented communities with internship opportunities and financial support for their graduate work. As a corporate member of the consortium, Adobe has sponsored more than 100 GEM Fellows since 2012, and has brought a number of former Fellows on board full-time once they’ve completed their studies.

“The GEM Fellowship program is unique because interns have a deep commitment to both school and the internship,” says Seth Walker, an Adobe Research Lead Research Designer who has also been a GEM Fellow mentor. “This means they really want to succeed in the internship since it has an impact on their overall success in both. Since some of our GEM fellows return for a second internship, we really get to know each other and push ourselves.” To learn more about the GEM experience, we talked to a couple of this summer’s Adobe Research GEM Fellows about what first brought them into STEM, their experiences as Fellows, and what they’ve been up to at Adobe Research, and we touched base with a former GEM Fellow who has just joined Adobe as a full-time employee.

Blending a love of arts and science

Sofia Ozambela came to Adobe with a background in creative technology design. This year, she completed her second summer as a GEM Fellow with Adobe Research. Here’s a window into our conversation with her.

Q: How did you get interested in science and technology?

Sofia: I’ve always been artistic. In high school, I decided I wanted to be a film director—video editing was my introduction to Adobe products. By the end of high school, I received honors in math and physics, and was encouraged by my physics teacher to pursue this interest further. I didn’t want to pick between art and science, so I searched for a career where I could do both.

I ended up discovering an amazing engineering program at the University of Colorado at Boulder called Creative Technology and Design (CTD) that merged all areas of design. I got involved in the STEM community as an active member of the Society of Women Engineers and the BOLD Engineering Program (Broadening Opportunity through Leadership and Diversity).

After that, I was admitted into my dream university, Cornell. I am in the Human-Centered Design program, with a specialization in human-computer interaction.

Q: What did you work on during your GEM Fellowship this summer?

Sofia: This summer I worked with Seth Walker, an awesome mentor I met last year. We’ve been exploring how AI can be used to create motion graphics, developing animation explorations with large language models, and designing an interface that best utilizes this technology.

Q: What do you dream of accomplishing in your career?

Sofia: I hope to meet and learn from inspiring and unique people from different backgrounds, and to design things that help people flourish. I dream that my career might play a small part in empowering young girls to pursue their passions, and in creating a future where diverse people are recognized, included, and celebrated.

Combatting hidden biases in AI

Ryan Aponte just completed his second summer as a GEM Fellow intern with Adobe Research, where his work focused on solving the challenges of gender bias in technology. Ryan, who was mentored by Senior Research Scientist Ryan Rossi, shared insights into his work and thoughts on GEM.

Q: Can you tell us more about your GEM Fellowship work this summer?

Ryan: I worked on reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF), leveraging feedback datasets for developing better large language models. In this work, a special area of focus was to explore how to reduce gender bias in these models. Based on that work, I’m submitting a paper and a patent application.

Q: What’s the most valuable thing, for you, about the GEM Fellowship?

Ryan: I believe the most valuable thing, as a master’s student, is funding. For many people, particularly those underrepresented in STEM, funding is the most significant barrier to higher education. The GEM Fellowship helps to lower this barrier and enables students to pursue advanced degrees—with the expectation that they will pay it forward.

Q: What would you say to someone considering applying for a GEM Fellowship?

Ryan: I’d encourage them! Besides the financial benefits, you’ll be able to meet interesting peers with shared backgrounds, which is especially challenging in graduate programs.

Q: Last summer, when you first joined Adobe as GEM Fellow, internships were still virtual for the pandemic. What was different about being in-person this summer?

Ryan: The in-person internship enabled me to network with other researchers, and share ideas and struggles. Seeing people regularly helped me build relationships that are just not the same in an online environment. For example, I enjoyed going to the movies with other interns and visiting San Francisco.

Creating what’s next for Photoshop

Albright Djokoto is a GEM fellow who now works for Adobe as a full-time staff member in the Photoshop Engineering team. He first joined Adobe as GEM Fellow intern, and he has now come on board as a Quality Engineering Developer. His work is helping build the next generation of features in Photoshop.

Q: How did you first get interested in a career in technology?

Albright: During my freshman year at New York University, I was conflicted between premed and computer science. I chose premed, but when it was time to start studying for the MCAT, I just didn’t want to go that route anymore. So I enrolled on a six-month bridge program at NYU Tandon. This program teaches the foundations of computer science. After the program ended, I was convinced I wanted to be a software developer and applied for a master’s degree program at the University of Pennsylvania.

Q: What was the best benefit of your GEM Fellowship?

Albright: The best part of being a GEM Fellow for me was the scholarship and the internship opportunity. Working at Adobe has been a dream of mine because I’ve been using Photoshop for over ten years. I didn’t want to just be a Photoshop user, I also wanted to be one of the creators. GEM gave me the opportunity to do this, and I am very grateful for that.

Q: Welcome, and congratulations on joining Adobe Research full-time! How did you decide to take the role, and what are you working on now?

Albright: I love the culture at Adobe, and how much emphasis is placed on employee wellbeing. Everyone I’ve interacted with has been welcoming and approachable, and I learned so much during my internship. I’m currently working on Generative Fill/Expand and the Object Selection Tool. Ultimately, it is just a joy for me to be able to help improve Photoshop. 

Interested in a GEM Fellowship?

Adobe continues to welcome new GEM Fellows each summer as interns, and to provide ongoing support to the GEM Fellowship Program.

Interested students are invited to visit the GEM Fellowship Program website to learn more and apply by November 15!

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