People of ACM European Chapters - Lipika Deka

May 15, 2018

Can you briefly describe your own line of research and how you became interested in this area?

I work in a number of related areas. They include concurrency control techniques and their application to file systems and software updates (such as in the electronic control unit of vehicles); AI techniques; and application to intelligent transportation system and satellite imagery.

I was always interested in the operating systems and network area, and programming in the systems level was a passion. This led me to do my PhD in the file systems area. The motivation for my PhD work arose from the fact that a file system needs to go offline to be backed up, and many individuals as well as companies do not follow a strict backup regime because it was expensive to take the file system offline. Online backup led to inconsistent backup which is of no use if a backup copy was required to replace the current file system. Our studies led to the conclusion that file systems must have transactions in order to allow online consistent backup. And I developed a transactional file system and an online backup algorithm over it.

Following my PhD from Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, I joined my husband, an academic at Loughborough University in the UK. By then we had a one-year-old child. With a young family, I looked to job opportunities nearby and this led me to join the Transport Group at Loughborough University as a post-doctoral researcher. During this period I grew deeply interested in the area of intelligent transport systems because of its applicability to society at large. My primary interest shifted to working in safety for drivers on the road, particularly with the inevitable advent of driverless cars. At the same time, my interest in operating systems level research and concurrency control techniques led me toward looking at updating embedded software in cars if necessary when the car is still moving. This has led me to look at the software architecture of autonomous vehicles and its adaptability to software updates. Hence, the broader interest in transportation cyber-physical systems.

I then moved to De Montfort University as a lecturer in Computer Science at the end of 2015. Looking at the research landscape, as well from the viewpoint of making an impact from research activities, my background in AI applications led me to collaborate with a company working with crop yield. We now have a collaborative project looking at predicting crop yield using satellite imagery.I currently work on all these areas with PhD students and a research associate, as well as collaborating with colleagues.

In your area of research, what recent advance/emerging subfield will yield important advances in the years ahead?

In the area of transportation, recent advances in quantum technology will yield important advances, particularly in accurate localization and the ability to look around corners, when it comes to autonomous vehicle and vulnerable road user safety.

Furthermore, the launch of Sentinel 5P and the availability of far more accurate pollution information and images will advance the field of downstream applications of satellites as well as transportation issues related to pollution mitigation and congestion.

Will you tell us a little about the ACM-W UK Chapter?

The chapter started in 2015 and currently has over 150 members. One of our primary activities is our annual INSPIRE conference: INSPIRE brings together senior undergraduate students and mid-career and early-career researchers (primarily women) in the field of computer science to inspire one another and celebrate the participants’ research, as well as conducting outreach activities. We recently organized the INSPIRE 2018 event at De Montfort University, Leicester on the 20 April 2018.

Further, we conducted a survey organized by the chapter officers, where we found that role models and mentoring had profound effects on inspiring women academics. The survey also found that more mentoring opportunities are needed. Hence, Poonam Yadav, our Chapter Chair, has launched a mentorship initiative to help early-career women academics connect with senior academics.

What advice would you offer a younger colleague just starting out in the field?

Work hard and be good at what you do. Believe in yourself and in what you aspire to—whether it is a personal or professional goal. It is okay to fail. It is okay to take a break from your career. The right approach will always pave the way back. This is advice I give to myself.

Lipika Deka is a computer engineer and lecturer in computer science at De Montfort University, Leicester (UK). Her PhD research on concurrency controls within file systems and post-doctorate in intelligent transportation systems laid a foundation for her current work in software engineering, software updates, positioning accuracy and path planning aspects of connected autonomous cars. She has also done interdisciplinary research applying computer science algorithms in the fields of chemical engineering and healthcare infrastructure.

Deka is the Vice Chair of the ACM-W UK Chapter.