In early 2023, Imperial alumna Meghna Asthana (MSc Biomedical Engineering 2016) was recognised with the India UK Achievers Award for her role in using science to create positive social impact. Marking the 75th anniversary of India's independence, the awards celebrate the work of 75 current or former Indian students in the UK who have achieved excellence in their fields, as well as inspired and encouraged others to follow in their footsteps. 

A current PhD student in Computer Vision at the University of York and former Data Science for Social Good Fellow at The Alan Turing Institute, Meghna's impressive portfolio consists of a myriad of government, non-profit and academic projects. In recent years, she collaborated with the UK Government, UNICEF, NASA, ESA and ISRO on multiple projects. You can connect with Meghna on LinkedIn and Twitter

Learn more about her career and time at Imperial in this alumni profile. 

What did you learn during your time at Imperial, in class or out?
During my time at Imperial, I was based in South Kensington which is the best place to explore the spectacular list of museums and galleries around us. Beyond my cohort, I was surrounded by intellectuals from different research backgrounds. A very simple example would be three of my flatmates. We were all working in different fields - materials, chemistry and biochemistry - and sharing each of our experiences over a morning breakfast before heading off to campus was something I really cherished.

Can you tell us about your studies at Imperial?
The best part about my studies at Imperial was that I was exposed to practical projects which make an actual impact from the first day of the term. I was privileged to learn from the top academics in medical and healthcare research. But most importantly, it was the first time I was exposed to the field of machine learning which eventually became my full-time career, i.e. we were working on AI before it was cool.

Who did you find inspiring at Imperial and why?
Coming to Imperial was a dream come true. The most inspiring aspect of that was seeing everyone around me doing groundbreaking research on a regular basis.

What is your fondest memory of your time here? 
My fondest memory is working in our Brain and Behaviour Lab with my friends. 

What is your favourite place at Imperial and why?
My favourite place would be the Royal School of Mines building where I spent most of my class time, group study and research time.

Tell us a bit about the work you’re doing now.
Since graduating, I have moved on to pursue my PhD in Computer Vision at the University of York which I am almost finished with. During these formative years as a full-time researcher, I have been an integral part of The Alan Turing Institute where I have worked on multiple high-impact projects with different UK ministries. For these, I have been nominated for multiple awards and my work has been published in international journals. I have gained international recognition for my work through the prestigious India UK Achievers Honours in the 'Education, Science & Innovation' category. I will be starting my work as a Research Associate at The Alan Turing Institute in affiliation with the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey working on climate AI problems. I hope to go on at least one Antarctica expedition during my time with them. 

What have been your career highlights?
My work is heavily focused on climate change and I have designed and built multiple algorithms which are currently being used by ministries of the UK government, creating a positive impact. First, a plankton species detection algorithm which works in real-time on the UK Endeavour vessel collecting data for the UK, Norway and Denmark. Second, a seapen identification and tracking algorithm from raw ocean floor video footage. Both of these have been proven vital for monitoring the marine ecosystem in British seas. Third, a solar panel and retrofitting suitability algorithm which checks whether a building is a good candidate for going carbon emission free was completed as part of the UK NetZero Strategy. I am also in the process of writing a chapter in the handbook 'The Turing Way: A Handbook', commenting on reproducible, ethical and collaborative data science.

What does a typical day look like for you now?
My typical day consists of working on multiple projects that I am involved in. As an early career researcher, I tend to work on my own code but I also sometimes supervise undergraduate students with my primary supervisor. The rest of my work includes doing a lot of public engagement and talks (at least twice a month) and collaborating with ministries and researchers all over the world.

What are your plans for the future?
I plan to further my research in climate AI and hope to work on high-impact projects with Government and international entities, bringing actual change and driving the conversation about climate change in the right direction.

What would be your advice for current students?
For all the students studying at Imperial, I believe this is an amazing place to strengthen your core skills. The coursework might look daunting at first but it's worth the effort. The Department of Bioengineering has the world’s top supervisors and working under their guidance during your time here will have a lasting impact on your career. Your cohort and supervisor are the best forms of support during this journey. These relationships last a lifetime.

What makes you proud to be an Imperial alumnus?
Imperial, being one of the top institutions in the world, pioneering STEM research is what makes me a proud alum.

What one word or phrase would you use to describe Imperial alumni?
World leaders in solving crucial problems.