Celebrating ‘inspiration’ and ‘inclusion’ for International Women’s Day: Leaders and changemakers in AI


Celebrating ‘inspiration’ and ‘inclusion’ for International Women’s Day: Leaders and changemakers in AI

To celebrate the power of ‘inspire inclusion’ in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) as part of this year’s theme for International Women’s Day 2024, Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) is highlighting five female leaders and changemakers working in this exciting and fast-developing area.

With a focus on developing a diverse community of AI decision-makers within the Emirates, MBZUAI is a champion for gender equity in STEM with a 28% female student body, five full-time female faculty members, 40 female researchers, and a gender-balanced workforce (52% overall female workforce).

Here are five MBZUAI women making an impact as faculty, researchers, students, or alumni:

1) H.E. Dr. Farida Al Hosani, vice president of MBZUAI’s Alumni Advisory Board (AAB), MBZUAI Executive Program (MEP) alumna, and executive director of communicable diseases at Abu Dhabi Public Health Center

During her participation in the MBZUAI Executive Program, H.E. Dr. Al Hosani developed a research project to create an AI-based healthcare solution for non-communicable diseases among the Emirati community including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, harnessing AI to better inform healthcare providers through data analysis and improve overall patient experience.  She has recently been appointed as the vice president for the university’s Alumni Advisory Board, which will cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset among alumni, and activate programs, events, and other professional initiatives.


2) Dr. Hanan Aldarmaki, assistant professor of natural language processing (NLP) at MBZUAI

With a specific focus on the Arabic language, UAE national Dr. Aldarmaki’s research at MBZUAI is focused on improving automated speech recognition for low-resource languages, or those which lack sufficient data to train computational models needed for automated speech recognition and virtual assistants.  She was recently recognized for the best paper at the inaugural Arabic Natural Language Processing Conference, as part of a team from MBZUAI who shared a study on improving speech processing technologies for the Arabic language through an application that can process both speech and text inputs, and which recognizes different Arabic dialects. Dr. Aldarmaki joined MBZUAI in 2022 from UAE University (UAEU) and has previously contributed to the Statistics Center-Abu Dhabi (SCAD), and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA).

3) Salma Alrashdi, master’s student at MBZUAI

Alrashdi, a current master’s student at MBZUAI, is deeply immersed in her field of machine learning, driven by her passion for healthcare applications. A UAE national with a background in molecular biology, her research journey revolves around preventing overfitting in predicting transcription factor binding site model. Her ultimate goal is to develop AI mechanisms underlying cancer evolution, aiming to pave the way for more precise and effective treatments grounded in genetic insights. What sets
Alrashdi apart is her unique blend of biological expertise and cutting-edge AI. Her commitment to harnessing technology to tackle real-world healthcare challenges reflects a deeply rooted desire to contribute meaningfully to the ongoing battle against cancer, showcasing her unwavering dedication to making a tangible impact in the field of oncology.

4) Karima Kadaoui, MBZUAI alumna and research assistant at MBZUAI

Kadaoui graduated from MBZUAI as part of its inaugural Class of 2022 with a master’s in machine learning. Her thesis was on impaired speech recognition, which aims to learn the patterns of disfluencies that someone with a speech disability might have and convert those back to how they would sound if spoken by a healthy individual. The Moroccan remained with MBZUAI as a research assistant and is currently working on democratizing different NLP tasks on the Arabic language and its dialects, whether in the text or speech modalities. While current translation and speech recognition systems work fairly well on standard Arabic, it is different for spoken dialects, which can be almost unintelligible from country-to-country. To be inclusive, it is imperative that systems are developed that work on the dialects spoken in real life. In the future, Kadaoui aims to enroll in a Ph.D. to further deepen her knowledge and wants to continue leveraging AI for disadvantaged communities and use her experience gained in different modalities – such as NLP and computer vision – for a more holistic approach to assistive and inclusive AI.

5) Hawua Olamide Toyin, current master’s student at MBZUAI

From Nigeria, Toyin is completing a master’s in machine learning at MBZUAI and is president of the Graduate Student Council. She is a member of the university’s Metaverse Center and her thesis is focusing on sustainable models in the area of multimodal systems for speech recognition and synthesis, focused specifically for Arabic. Her research has been recognized at a number of external events and conferences including the GITEX Global AI InnovateFest and the first-ever Arabic Natural Language Processing Conference in Singapore. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in applying AI to identification, correction, and evaluation of speech disorders, ultimately using AI-based solutions to benefit different industries including healthcare to improve quality of life, especially in developing countries.

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