Avishkar Bhoopchand, a research engineer on the Game Theory and Multi-agent team at DeepMind, shares his journey to the company and his efforts to promote deep learning in Africa. Learn more about Deep Learning Indaba 2022, the African AI community’s annual gathering in Tunisia this August.
A Day at Work
As a research engineer and technical lead, Bhoopchand’s workday is never the same. He starts by listening to podcasts or audiobooks during his commute and then focuses on emails and admin before attending various meetings. His tasks in the afternoon could include preparing presentations, reading research papers, coding, running experiments, or analyzing results. He also mentions that his dog Finn keeps him busy while working from home.
Interest in AI
Bhoopchand’s interest in AI sparked during a course on intelligent agents at the University of Cape Town, where he witnessed a six-legged robot learning to walk through reinforcement learning (RL). Although machine learning wasn’t a popular career option in South Africa at the time, Bhoopchand worked in the finance industry as a software engineer. Later, he pursued online courses and obtained a master’s degree in computational statistics and machine learning from University College London.
Involvement in Deep Learning Indaba
Apart from his work at DeepMind, Bhoopchand is an organizer and steering committee member of the Deep Learning Indaba, a movement dedicated to advancing machine learning and AI in Africa. The initiative began as a summer school in South Africa and has since grown into an annual celebration attended by over 600 individuals. They also organize local IndabaX events and offer research grants, thesis awards, and mentorship programs. Through the Indaba, Bhoopchand aims to foster collaboration and publication by African AI researchers.
Bhoopchand’s DeepMind Journey
Bhoopchand always aspired to work at DeepMind but initially doubted his chances. However, encouraged by his wife, he applied and eventually secured a position as a research engineer. His previous experience in software engineering helped him in his current role, blending engineering and research skills.
One of Bhoopchand’s notable projects involves teaching artificial agents real-time cultural transmission. By training agents to observe and imitate an expert’s behavior, the project explores the potential of cultural evolution in developing artificial general intelligence (AGI). Bhoopchand highlights the inclusive culture within the project team.
Involvement in Peer Groups
Bhoopchand actively participates in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives at DeepMind. He facilitates internal workshops on allyship, contributes to working groups promoting community inclusion and diversity in hiring, and serves as a mentor in the DeepMind scholarship program.
Impact of DeepMind’s Work
Bhoopchand is particularly passionate about AI’s potential impact on medicine, specifically in understanding and treating diseases like depression. He envisions AI systems working alongside human experts to unlock the mysteries of the mind and develop improved treatment options.
To learn more about research at DeepMind and explore job opportunities, visit their website.
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