Kate Saenko


Kate Saenko’s work focuses on training artificial intelligence. The goal is to make AI better at recognizing images and texts, classifying and recognizing objects and activities in images and videos, and doing textual analysis of images and videos related to texts such as closed captioning.

It’s a natural career path for someone who always had a proclivity for advances in technology that once seemed far off into the future and are now part of our everyday lives.

“Well, I think I’ve always been interested in science fiction,” says Saenko, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and founding member of the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences. “And so when I was choosing what to study in graduate school, I was attracted to the idea that we can have computers recognize human speech and talk to people like people. So it seemed very ‘science fictiony’ to me at the time.”

Of course, nowadays, she says, science fiction has become reality. But the link between the two is what attracted her to the general field of AI and speech recognition. She hopes her work will help advance AI to places previously only seen in the movies or in novels.

“We want to create algorithms or computer methods that mimic the way that humans do tasks—that’s the goal of artificial intelligence,” she says. “And part of that is the human ability to do pattern recognition and understand complex signals like images, for example, and be able to very quickly categorize them into different categories or describe them in language, which is another way of categorizing complex signals into distinct categories. 

"The high-level goal is trying to somehow replicate human intelligence.”

Learn More