CS&E Ph.D. Honored by NCWIT for Technical Accomplishments

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June 4, 2018

CS&E Ph.D. alumna Aarti Sathyanarayana was recently honored by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) for demonstrating a high level of innovation and potential societal impact for her research.

Sathyanarayana received the NCWIT Collegiate Award’s honorable mention distinction for her research project on a machine learning approach to computational sleep science. Her work leverages wearable technologies, such as Apple Watch and Fitbit, that compile massive amounts of data to discover underlying factors that disrupt an individual’s sleeping patterns.

“One in six consumers own a wearable device—it’s a four-billion-dollar industry,” Sathyanarayana points out in her research overview video on her website. “It opens the door to an unprecedented amount of personal data that can be particularly revolutionary for sleep science.”

She goes on to say that even though using wearables to study sleep patterns is not new, traditional analysis has been unable to keep pace with the explosion of wearable use for health monitoring. This is where Sathyanarayana’s research is changing the science of sleep. By combining deep learning techniques with a human activity recognition algorithm that looks at an individual’s activity in a given day, her method is able to predict sleep quality from wearable device data. Additionally, her study has been shown to streamline computational analysis of current sleep science processes by shortening the time it takes for medical practitioners and scientists to screen, diagnose, and eventually recommend treatments for individuals suffering from sleep disorders.

For example, if an individual had a physically or mentally arduous day, their wearable would collect this health monitoring data and Sathyanarayana’s computational approach would allow this individual to see how their daily activity could affect their upcoming night of sleep. Based on this information, the individual could make behavioral changes to ensure the night will be restful and healthy.

Since sleep deprivation can lead to many health risks, Sathyanarayana’s work has the potential for a tremendous impact on current health epidemics, from obesity and diabetes to Alzheimer’s and cancer.

“By building new computational methods and connecting the dots between physical activity and sleep we can help improve the health, sleep, and quality of life of society as a whole,” said Sathyanarayana.

Sathyanarayana received her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 2017 and was a member of Professor Jaideep Srivastava’s Data Mining Research Group. Currently, she works as a research fellow in the Computational Health Informatics Program at Harvard Medical School.

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