Master’s Graduate Focuses on Accent Recognition Using Deep Learning

Ms Yuvika Singh has graduated with a cum laude MSc degree in Computer Science, specialising in accent recognition using deep learning.

After completing matric with flying colours, Singh left her home town of Richards Bay to study for a Bachelor of Science degree at UKZN – her choice of institution directed by the outstanding quality of research and superior level of academia in the University’s Computer Science discipline.

With her BSc in the bag, she completed a BSc Honours degree in Computer Science summa cum laude. Now at a crossroads with various options presented to her by other institutions, research facilities and software companies, her focused determination and appreciation of the excellent standard of Computer Science at UKZN made the choice of pursuing her MSc degree at the University an obvious one.

Singh’s Masters research – supervised by Mr Anban Pillay and Mr Edgar Jembere – focused on accent recognition using deep learning.  She had found that a broad spectrum of voice accents were not well received by existing Automatic Speech Recognition systems, so decided to investigate automated computational methodologies which helped determine the native language that a person spoke, by listening to their voice. This meant that the system could identify the home-language of an individual by their accent, which improved speech recognition by first identifying the accent of an individual, and then switching to an accent-specific speech recogniser.

‘Studying full-time comes with its challenges,’ said Singh.  ‘However, it is important never to lose hope in one’s endeavours but instead to pursue objectives in order to accomplish goals.’

She thanked God, her parents and siblings, her supervisor and co-supervisor, peers, colleagues and staff in the School of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science (MSCS).

Singh believes that Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are at the forefront of technology. ‘The domains in which AI can reach, with the backing of Computer Science, are vast,’ she said. ‘Under the existing global circumstances, it is technology that virtually connects people and countries together. It makes drug development faster and has the ability to predict a future that can allow planning for foreseeable events.’

Said her supervisor Anban Pillay: ‘It is with great pride that the Academic Leader of Computer Science, Professor Serestina Viriri and staff congratulate Yuvika on her outstanding achievement. She has been one of our exceptional students since she began her academic career here in 2015. Her hard work, dedication and perseverance have enabled her to produce excellent results.  Ms Singh is an inspiration to women in science.’

Singh is currently an ad-hoc lecturer to third-year Computer Science students at UKZN. She is also pursuing her PhD in Computer Science at the Institution. Her research topic relates to Artificial Intelligence in healthcare – an automated response to cancer diagnosis. In addition, Singh is currently contributing towards COVID-19 research by creating a dashboard for South African specific cases.

Singh still manages to enjoy some of her hobbies which include sport, meditation, learning about different religions, cultures and countries, and following world events.

Proud parents, Asha and Pravin Singh said: ‘Yuvika has upheld the exceptionally high academic standards set out by her two elder siblings. Her discipline, dedicated work ethic and ambition are unwavering, and that is what we are proud of. Our thanks go to the Discipline of Computer Science for delivering excellence.’

Words: Leena Rajpal

Photograph: Supplied