Using technology for a social good

For Dr Thushari Atapattu, one of the most fascinating things about working in her field, is working on advancing technology that can be used in the community for social good.

photo of thushari atapattu

While Thushari says she has followed a reasonably linear route in her career, graduating from her PhD in Computer Science, before commencing research with the university, she says she has been lucky to have been able to incorporate her passions into her research.

A computer science researcher, co-founder and lead of research group Language Technology for Social Good Group, and a technical lead for Computer Science Education Research programs – just to name a few of her many accomplishments and contributions to the world of natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI) research, we’re celebrating Thushari’s career and interests in the lead up to International Women’s Day 2022.

Why does she love what she does?

My favourite part of working in my field is observing the impact AI can have on the well-being of people in society. I use AI and NLP techniques to solve problems in areas such as mental health, cyberbullying, emotion modelling, and education technology.

Does she have advice for her younger self?

I wish I did another major such as human psychology or neuroscience in addition to my computer science degree.

My advice to my younger self would be “Don’t limit yourself to one field of study, explore diverse fields to follow your dreams”.

What is a personal or professional area that she strives to learn more about?

Although my background is in computer science, most of my current research interests are related to combining computer science with areas such as human psychology, neuroscience and social sciences.

If I was to have the opportunity, I would love to deep dive the ‘human mind and brain’ from psychology, neuroscience and social science perspectives.

Name an achievement that makes you feel proud?

One of the proudest achievements in my career so far is founding (with Prof. Katrina Falkner) and leading a new research group (Language Technology for Social Good) as an Early Career Researcher (ECR). This achievement also led me to be nominated as a finalist for the ‘Women in AI award’ for Aus & NZ in 2021.

How do you unwind in your spare time?

I love cooking, especially Sri Lankan cuisine, reading books mainly about the ‘human mind’, and travelling around the world.

Thank you to Thushari for sharing your thoughts with us, we wish you the very best for the year ahead!

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