My Dedication To Saving Lives Using Deep Learning

Source: Deep Learning on Medium

Go to the profile of Franklin Heng


Nice to meet you.

My name is Franklin. I am a first generation Cambodian American, I recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in computer science, and I want to save lives using computer vision.

What exactly is computer vision? From the words of Fei Fei Li, a computer science professor and the director of Stanford’s Vision and Learning Lab, the goal of computer vision is:

To bridge the gap between pixels and “meaning”

By representing visual data (like images and videos) as numerical pixels, we can develop algorithms that automatically analyze these pixels and output something we term “meaningful”. Such algorithms can be supervised (where we label data, so the algorithm knows the correct answer during training) or unsupervised (where no label is necessary, and the algorithm clusters images on its own).

Image result for cat detection computer vision image
Some examples of common computer vision tasks

The above image displays some examples of common computer vision tasks applied to images. Going from left to right:

  • (first image) Classifying whether the full image is a cat or not
  • (second image) Classifying whether an image contains a cat and place a bounding box around the cat
  • (third image) Detecting cats, dogs, and ducks within the image, and placing a bounding box around each detected object
  • (fourth image) Detect cats, dogs, and ducks within the image, and segment the objects by coloring each individual pixels that belong to a specific class

The power of computer vision can be seen if you generalize those examples to not just cats, dogs, and ducks; but to many other objects: cancer cells, people trapped in natural disaster situations, structural issues in a building, patients in a hospital room, … the list goes on. As you can now imagine, there is a full list of ways that computer vision can be used to save lives, and this can range from agricultural issues to counter terrorism.

As for myself, I am focusing on the domain of medical imaging, where I apply computer vision algorithms to MRI and/or CT scans. I am currently working on two projects at University of California, San Fransisco (UCSF):

  1. Predicting brain age using brain CTs and correlating with various diseases and substance abuse
  2. Detecting stroke within brain CTs

*For those more technically inclined, a paper submission is on the way for both of these projects, so I will save the technical aspects of these projects for a later medium post!

Example of model prediction of brain age and ground truth brain age

Ultimately, these are the types of projects I am passionate about — applying computer vision on medical data so I can help doctors do what they do best: save lives. So, I have officially said good bye to an offer from a “big” tech company and quit recruiting all together.

If I am rejecting offers and not recruiting, then that leaves me only one option: sleeping on the streets.

Just kidding, it means I am going head first and doing anything I can to build a startup (and maybe in the process sleep on the streets, lol).

But why a startup? Personally, there are many deep reasons why (hint, look out for another post!), but one reason that resonates with me the most is after my time at Cambodia in January of 2019. During my visit, I got the chance to spend a lot of time with family that currently live there. After some sincere talks with my cousin about the corruption and inefficiencies of Cambodian politics and education system, I ended up making a promise to him:

I will do something special and impactful in America, then come back to Cambodia and not only help financially, but also share wisdom and knowledge to the people.

Therefore, my first step to fulfilling this promise is to build a successful computer vision startup and have our products be used in hospitals all over America — and eventually the world. More importantly, we Cambodians have not been able to show the world our true potential because we lost a lot after the Cambodian Genocide, and my goal is to be the first of many that send a message to the world that we are still out here to achieve greatness.

Image of a necklace and a ring that my Uncle in Cambodia gifted me. Everyday it reminds me of my promise and symbolizes a marriage to that promise. I hang both over a paper that writes “Heart of a Warrior” in Japanese calligraphy.

This summer (summer of 2019), I will be dedicating even more time at UCSF and on building products that will hopefully be used in practice at hospitals.

In the near future, you can expect me to publish posts about:

  • Technical aspects of computer vision and image processing using my past and current projects as examples
  • The ups and down of my journey as I stray away from the common post grad path of my peers and shoot straight for building a startup
  • History and culture of Cambodia, and how it strongly connects to my mission and who I am as a person
  • More about my past and how I struggled greatly through education for most of my life before graduating from UC Berkeley
  • And much more

For now, welcome to my journey and mission to save lives. I hope that you too join me and dedicate your craft for the better of the good.

Much more of my story to be told and much more to be written.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”

— Maya Angelou