Hard work pays off

“UTP has helped me to nurture my public speaking and academic writing skills which was extremely helpful when writing the conference paper and when I had to present my results to the professor or to other lab members", said Muhammad Fathy Rashad, a computer engineering student from Universiti Teknologi Petronas.

PETALING JAYA: Muhammad Fathy Rashad, an undergraduate student from Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP), made the varsity proud when he successfully published a conference paper at The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) 2021 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference.

His paper titled CreativeGAN: Editing Generative Adversarial Networks for Creative Design Synthesis was published together with Assistant Prof Faez Ahmed and Amin Heyrani Nobari, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

A computer engineering student, Muhammad Fathy explained that the paper was aimed to introduce a method to enhance the creative capability of generative machine learning models.

Currently, machine learning has been successfully used to generate new data such as images, music, product designs, or even arts and paintings, hence, showing a certain degree of computational creativity.

“However, generating a truly novel or unique design using machine learning still remains a challenge,” Muhammad Fathy said.

“Our paper attempts to enhance the creative capability of machine learning models by identifying components that make a design unique and modifying the generative model such that it becomes more likely to generate designs with the unique components.

“The paper demonstrates this method by generating new bicycle designs with unique frames and handle.”

Muhammad Fathy recalled how he was able to get connected with MIT.

“It all started when I was doing my internship at Vitrox Corporation Bhd, an automated electronics inspection company, and just started learning about machine learning.

“I started to blog on what I learned and published several articles about machine learning,” he said.

He added: “Coincidentally, one of my articles overlapped with one of the MIT DeCoDE Lab’s research interests which is computational creativity.”

“Faez read my article and then sent me an email for a talk and gave me some preliminary tasks.

“As he saw the potential for a conference paper, he paired me up with one of his PhD students, Amin, and we started working together on the research,” he added.

Being affiliated with MIT is something that Muhammad Fathy would never expect of.

“It reinforces my belief that everything is possible. This experience has taught me many lessons such as how to write a conference paper, how to conduct research and how to present my research better.

“I am really grateful to Faez and my co-author Amin as they were very accommodating despite my remote location and the time difference.”

Apart from publishing the conference paper with MIT, Muhammad Fathy also had the opportunity to become one of the members and the only non-MIT student at the DeCoDE Lab.

“In addition to doing research, I participated in the weekly lab meeting and had the opportunity to present several topics to other PhD students in the lab,” he said.

Muhammad Fathy also pointed out that he would never have thought that an undergraduate could actually publish a paper and join labs at other universities.

“In the United States or other countries, many students would join a lab in their first or second year to help with research and potentially publish a paper. Hence, by the time they graduate, some students would have already published several papers.

“UTP provides similar opportunity, but it's not widely known among undergraduate students. In addition, it's quite uncommon for the university to hire undergraduates for research works,” he shared.

Muhammad Fathy credited his education and extracurricular activities in UTP to help him better prepared in publishing the conference paper.

“UTP has helped me to nurture my public speaking and academic writing skills which was extremely helpful when writing the conference paper and when I had to present my results to the professor or to other lab members.

“Moreover, through UTP various events and club activities, I had many opportunities to conduct workshops and become a speaker in many events. I also had the opportunity to practice my academic writing skills as many subjects in UTP required technical reports with strict requirements.

“Additionally, UTP’s seven-month-long student industrial internship programme had greatly helped me to learn machine learning in depth and gave me my initial experience on research.

“Without these skills and research experience, I may have not been able to get the same opportunity to do research with MIT.”

Muhammad Fathy also thanked his supervisor, Dr Ho Tatt Wei, and his lecturers for being supportive and understanding in allowing him to focus on completing his conference paper, as it was difficult balancing between his research work and studies due to the time difference.

“Being able to publish and present a paper at the age of 20 is indeed my proudest achievement.

“This is a testimony that even an undergraduate student is able to collaborate and conduct research at the international level,” he pointed out.

“I hope my achievement will inspire other undergraduate students in UTP to publish conference papers.

“I also hope that this achievement influences UTP to expose more research opportunities to undergraduate students. For example, MIT has Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme or UROP, where they allow even first year students to join a lab and participate in research,” he said.

He also emphasised on the importance of having an online presence and publishing your work in the internet.

“It would have been nearly impossible if I didn't have my portfolio or didn't write my blog as Faez would not be able to find me.

“With my portfolio and blog, I was also able to get various other opportunities such as clients, speaking invitations, and job offers. Hence, I'd really like to encourage other students to build their online presence either with a portfolio, a blog, or even a social media account,” he added.

UTP is extremely proud of Muhammad Fathy’s achievement.

“This is a testimonial of the quality of students that we produce - all-round excellent students who are top notch, creative and innovative, that set them apart from others,” said UTP deputy vice chancellor Academic Prof Dr Hilmi Mukhtar said.

“At UTP, we strengthen the student-centred environment in line with our objective to provide more holistic student experience and opportunities for their professional and personal growth.

“This is part of our commitment to ensure a distinctive and transformative learning experience that will equip our students with the knowledge and skills to make a positive national and global impact,” Prof Hilmi added.

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