Kanchan Poudel has been working with NAAMII for the past nineteen months as a Research Assistant. She's a part of the ToGAI research group and is currently involved in the AI-assisted VIA Screening of Cervical Cancer Cervical Cancer research project. A recently graduated Computer Engineer from Institute of Engineering (IOE), Pulchowk Campus – in this Upclose with Kanchan, Kanchan shares with us how she’s been exploring the fields of Health, AI & Research.
Initial Inclination Towards Research
Kanchan was always interested to pursue research over pre-defined industry work because of the sense of liberation and opportunity for discovery that it offers. She didn’t want to be within a pre-defined boundary. Even in research there always lies a guiding factor but it also allows an individual to flourish by providing a creative outlet for exploration and discovery, allowing for the testing of new ideas and the generation of new knowledge. This sense of freedom and the potential for meaningful contributions to a field is initially what inspired Kanchan as it offers a unique blend of challenge and reward, making it a fulfilling and rewarding career choice.
NAAMII & AI School
Despite that Kanchan was always keen and aware of the applicability of mathematics since high-school, her undergraduate degree & joining NAAMII's Annual Nepal AI School strengthened her foundation on how to immediately apply the theoretical knowledge in a manner that we can actually see the impact of mathematics and AI in day-to-day lives.
A Human-Centric Perspective on a Project
As a Research Assistant, Kanchan is not only involved in her project in the research dimension but is also fully involved in its development, machine learning & quality control stages. She tells that all the ongoing projects at NAAMII are currently application-based but her project is particularly inspiring to her because she is closely being able to interact with the direct beneficiaries of the project be it the targeted risk population or the healthcare officials. For Kanchan to know that - this Cervical Cancer project is not only changing women's perspective towards general health but it's also spreading an awareness on sanitary and health habits and why you need to conduct occasional medical tests - is something that motivates her. Also, it helps her to see that her work has an impact somewhere in the society.
Personal Growth & Changes
Apart from the technical skills, Kanchan believes that joining NAAMII has also enhanced her interpersonal skills because she wasn't open to seeking help and was reluctant to articulate her problems however, the environment at NAAMII has helped her to enhance her communication skills and discuss ideas with her colleagues. Every day she is pitching her project to not just her colleagues but different guests and now is capable of making other people understand her projects confidently. She is also highly inspired by Dr Bishesh Khanal, the Research Scientist of ToGAI who left his comfortable jobs abroad to make an impact in Nepal and to help build the capacity of the researches of Nepal.
Advice for Aspiring Researchers
For an upcoming researcher, It is important to approach your work with a growth mindset. Research is a challenging and complex process that requires patience, perseverance, and a willingness to learn. There may be times when your efforts do not yield immediate results, but this should not discourage you. Instead, embrace this as a natural part of the learning process and use these experiences to refine your skills and knowledge. Embrace failure and treat it as a learning opportunity. Research is a process of trial and error, and you may feel frustrated seeing that your efforts are not garnering the desired results but you shouldn't feel worthless because of that. It feels fascinating to see the research outputs of other researchers and you may have the mindset of achieving it in a similar level but sometimes things may not work out and there are both sides to the coin. So stay motivated, persistent, and focused on your goals while being flexible and adaptable.