Dr. Sasha Luccioni
I was born/grew up in: Zaporozhye, Ukraine
I now live in: Montreal, Quebec,
I completed my training/education at: I have a BA in Linguistics from Université Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris III). During my BA, I did a year abroad at Ewha Women's University in South Korea. I have an MSc in Cognitive Science from École Normale Supérieure (Paris). During my MSc studies, I undertook a semester at Universidad Nacional de Córdoba in Argentina. I have a PhD in Cognitive Computing from Université du Québec à Montréal.
What I do at work
I am a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Université de Montréal, MILA research institute. I work on climate change related projects using Artificial Intelligence (AI). My work is a mix of undertaking research and sharing that research to a broader audience. I lead a team that is using new variations of conditional Generative Adversarial Networks (cGANs). We are using this to carry out image-to-image translation under physical and visual limitations. We use these to create visual representations of the impact of climate change on environments we know. These images can be confronting. They put the threat of climate change into a real context.
Alongside research, I teach a Machine Learning course at HEC Montréal. I also sit on the organizing committees of Climate Change AI and AI4Good Montreal. These events help to show how AI research relates to the real world. They offer the public a chance to learn about and engage with the latest ideas and projects in AI. I appear on panels, in interviews, and give talks on applying AI to climate change. I believe we can only affect massive and meaningful change if we have the public on board. No two days are the same. It’s exciting to be at the forefront of an emerging field. You never know what discoveries might affect your own work or inspire new connections!
My career path is
I have followed my purpose, not a specific path during my career. I started by studying Linguistics, which introduced me to the linguistics that machines use. This led to an interest in how machine learning can visualize answers to big human questions. By following my interests, I have found a niche that I find challenging and fulfilling. This is where I feel I can make a difference. Being open-minded ensures that I am receptive to different opportunities that I could never have predicted. This keeps everything fresh and interesting. Find out more on my LinkedIn profile.
I am motivated by
I enjoy the variety in different types of work I do. I teach and learn, create and research, share and collaborate. Balancing different types of activities keeps everything interesting, and offers some flexibility. I enjoy working on big questions, like “what will climate change look like?” Then I get to educate the public on our findings, and help them see what they can do to help change the outcome.
How I affect peoples’ lives
Climate change is one of the greatest threats we are facing. Being able to work on projects that help educate the public and inspire others to work on these problems is fulfilling. As part of Montréal’s thriving AI research community, I get to see the development of potential solutions. I also get to learn alongside some of the greatest minds in the industry. While climate change is an enormous challenge, I believe that human creativity and innovation could mitigate the impacts. We can create a better and more equitable society for people all around the world.
Outside of work I
Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my kids and taking them to museums and parks. I also volunteer for organizations like the Creative Destruction Lab, Climate Change AI, and I am on the Advisory Board of Kids Code Jeunesse.
My advice to others
I would say follow your passions! It’s easier to work hard and apply yourself to something that inspires you. You never know where it might lead you. There’s a concept I like called ikigai (it’s Japanese) to help people find their calling in life. It entails finding 1) what you are good at; 2) what you like doing; 3) what you can get paid for; and 4) what society needs. It’s what I used to pick my own job!