Engineering student finds joy in research

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A. Sue Weisler

Natasha Kholgade has spent much of her time in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering performing hands-on research with the guidance of her instructors.

Born in India and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Natasha Kholgade has traveled a great deal with her family, but her first visit to the United States came as she arrived in Rochester to attend RIT. Kholgade’s father, who helped with her college search online, came upon an engineering school in upstate New York with programs she was looking for. “He encouraged me to apply,” she says. “He said, ‘just go for it.’”

Kholgade will graduate in May with a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer engineering from the Kate Gleason College of Engineering. She is working on her thesis, focusing on computer visioning—the design, programming and analysis of images to recognize human activity for tasks as complex as surveillance or smart advertising systems.

Her work in computer visioning and recognition “is very interesting, an up-and-coming technology area,” she says. “I wanted to do more than programming and spend time on the science and research side of technology.”

Kholgade has co-presented a paper with her faculty adviser, Andreas Savakis, chair of the computer engineering department, titled “Recognizing Human Activities Using Boundary Points of Silhouettes.” The paper was part of an Institute of Electric and Electronics Engineers Western New York Image Processing Workshop held at RIT. “One of the advantages of being at RIT as someone enjoying the research experience is co-authoring research papers with faculty,” she says.

Currently secretary of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, Kholgade helps members organize and perform community service. This year, the group participated at a local sheep shearing festival and volunteered at activities like taking kids on tours, face-painting and helping out at the petting zoo.

“The honor society is not just about engineering, but how you can serve your community,” she says.

Within RIT, Kholgade participates as a member of several student clubs including the Global Union, the Organization of African Students and the Organization of the Alliance of Students from the Indian Subcontinent.

Outside of RIT, she has a great affinity for the outdoors and travel. On breaks she has returned to Mumbai, India, or visited relatives downstate. Her travels have taken her to Colorado, where she skied for the first time; and to Spain and Austin, Texas, with the RIT Honors Program.

On another of her travels, she toured Kenya marveling at the vastness of nature and “seeing the animals where they are comfortable—not in a zoo. I love nature,” she says. “You are such a small person when you see so much bounty. It was incredible. If I could not be a computer engineer, I’d like to own a farm.”