Profiles in ECE: Rucha Apte (MS ECE 2021)

From the internships that inspired her interest in signal & image processing and machine learning to late night study sessions at the Duderstadt to her background in classical dance, Master’s student Rucha Apte shares her journey with us.

Rucha stands in grad cap and gown next to the EECS building sign Enlarge
Rucha outside the EECS building on North Campus.

Rucha Apte graduated this past spring with a Master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering with a focus in Signal & Image Processing and Machine Learning. She earned her Bachelor’s in Engineering in Electronics and Telecommunications from the University of Pune. As a Data Science Intern at Altair Engineering, she specialized in Computer Vision and Deep Learning. She also specialized in HD Mapping and Localization as a Software Engineering Intern at DeepMap.

We caught up with Rucha to learn about her journey, her goals, and her hobbies.

What inspired you to become an engineer?

My father was an electrical engineer, and that is one of the main reasons that I wanted to go into engineering. I also really enjoyed math and physics in school.

How did you become interested in Signal and Image Processing?

During my undergrad, I didn’t really have any exposure towards machine learning, or even image processing and computer vision. But during my final year, I got an opportunity to work with a company called Optra Health, and my project was completely based in machine learning and digital image processing.

My task was to automate the histopathology process for immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is vastly based on the count of Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TILs). The TILs have the ability to migrate towards the tumor and shrink the tumor. In the traditional method, pathologists have to actually count the number of TILs. However, by using and combining the best various algorithms at every step, I was able to compute the tumor and non-tumor score by quantifying the TILs with an accuracy of 98.2%.

That experience made me want to delve deeper into machine learning and digital image processing.

Rucha and her brother in front of Michigan Stadium Enlarge
Rucha and her brother, Akshay Apte, outside Michigan Stadium.

What made you choose U-M?

Michigan was one of the universities that offered a lot of flexibility in courses and offered a specialization in what I wanted to learn. My brother, Akshay Apte, is also an alum of U-M. He specialized in Automotive Systems Engineering, and he really encouraged me to come here.

What was your favorite course here?

The technical class that I enjoyed the most was EECS 505 [Computational Data Science and Machine Learning] that was taught by Prof. Raj Rao Nadakuditi. I learned a lot in terms of not only the math, but also the application.

You only had one and a half terms of in-person instruction before the pandemic forced us to transition to remote learning. What was that like for you?

For me, I actually liked the transition. In my first semester, I was taking a lot of heavy courses, and it was really difficult to manage all the schedules, exams, projects, and quizzes. And on top of that, I had to do all the household chores, like cooking and cleaning. That was new for me, because in India, I was living with my parents, so I didn’t have to manage as much. So it was a lot to adjust to here, but when we shifted to remote, I could give myself a lot more time. It was easier to balance everything, I think.

How has U-M helped prepare you in your field?

When I started my internship, I didn’t really understand math completely. But after taking classes here, I felt that I had a better understanding of all the mathematical concepts, and that helped me excel in my projects. And then I started interning at Mcity, which got me interested in the application of computer vision to autonomous vehicles, which is what I’m pursuing now.

I’d also say that my first semester here was really overwhelming, but I learned how to solve problems, and that’s given me a lot of confidence that I can handle any future challenges.

What is your current job/goals for the future?

U of M has given me the necessary background to hone my problem solving skills and has helped me to identify the fields I am really interested in. I will be working at Velodyne Lidar as a Machine Learning Engineer. I want to delve deeper into the domains of Computer Vision and Deep Learning.

What are some of your favorite memories here?

Apart from the classes, I really enjoyed staying up late at night. We used to stay all night at the Duderstadt doing homework and coming up with solutions and collaborating, and that was really fun. I enjoyed the work a lot. And apart from that, all the events that we used to go to, like coffee and cookie hours, donuts at Duderstadt and social hours.

Do you have any hobbies?

I’m a trained classical dancer and a synthesizer player, so I indulge myself in dancing and composing new melodies. I also really enjoy bird-watching and landscape photography.

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