The 'Women in Science' series aims to break down gender inequalities and celebrates the achievements of our female scientists and researchers in A*STAR. Hear their stories and discover how their unique personal lives and perspectives shape the great work
Ms Aw Ai Ti, Head for Human Language Technologies, A*STAR's Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R)
Q: Tell us about your involvement in this project.
A: As the head of Human Language Technologies at A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R), I’m also the Principal Investigator responsible for the overall research, development and delivery of SG Translate project. SG Translate
is an AI-translation engine that provides a more efficient and accurate translation of messages in Singapore’s four official languages.
Data preparation is an important step in this machine learning process. My role involves overseeing the data collection and processing to ensure sufficient quality data is used to train the engine, evaluating and identifying errors in translation output.
I also work closely with my team to review and generate new ideas to continuously improve the engine.
Ms Aw Ai Ti with her team at A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R)
Q: What are your motivations for getting into this field of research?
A: My first project in natural language processing was on summarisation in early 1990s. However, it was difficult to find use cases at that time as the technology was meant for specific uses only.
During one of the meetings with our user, the topic of machine translation was brought up. The idea excites me as I see the potential and need for this technology to break language barriers, for effective communication in a globalised world.
My first project on machine translation was a rule-based system to translate Malay to English.
Q: What does being a woman in science today mean to you?
A: Personally, I do not see any gender inequality in my area of work, although there is a standing idea that females are more adept at language learning. I believe that as long as we are passionate in our area of work and enjoy what we are doing, it does
not matter whether we are in science or art.
Ms Aw Ai Ti discussing with her team members on the SG Translate project
Q: What would you say to young girls who want to pursue a career in science?
A: If you like science, have an inquisitive mind, enjoy problem-solving and do not give up easily - do not be afraid to take up a scientific career. There are many opportunities to learn and excel. And most importantly, follow your heart and do what makes
Ms Aw Ai Ti giving us a glimpse of the AI-translation engine
Q: What is your biggest achievement to date?
A: Outside of work accomplishments, I am proud of my two daughters. Both of them have grown up to be independent, kind and thoughtful. They take pride in their work and at the same time, work hard and play hard.
Q: What are your favourite pastimes outside of work?
A: I love to cook, especially making dessert on weekends for my extended family. I enjoy the bonding time at family gatherings. Influenced by my younger daughter, I have also started to enjoy hiking, particularly scenic hiking trails.
Q: If you weren’t a researcher/scientist, what would you be right now?
A: I would probably be a school teacher. I enjoy interacting with kids; their innocent conversations and laughter make me feel happy and free from worries.
From front to back: Mr Zheng Weihua, Ms Aw Ai Ti, Ms Wu Kui, Ms Nina Zhou, Mr Rajan s/o Vellu, Ms Nabilah Binte Md Johan, Mr Xiang Yuanxin. Not in photo: Ms Siti Maryam Binte Ahmad Subaidi, Mr Tarun Kumar Vangani, Mr Ding Yang.
Q: Coffee, tea or bubble tea?
A: Coffee keeps me awake.
The Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R)
aims to power a vibrant and strong infocomm ecosystem in Singapore through key research areas in artificial intelligence, audio; language & speech, data analytics, communications & networks, cybersecurity, healthcare, robotics &
AV, satellite, smart energy & environment and video & image analytics. Join the I²R family today!