Featured Profiles

The AI Polymath: Dilip Prasad’s Quest to Humanize Artificial Intelligence

A distinguished professor at UiT and the National University of Singapore, Dilip Prasad is at the vanguard of tackling artificial intelligence’s biggest hurdles—enhancing scalability, interpretability, and centering human values. In this candid interview, the academic maverick unveils his driving inspirations, approaches for cultivating global collaborations, and initiatives that could catalyze seismic advances in healthcare, reproductive technologies, and environmental sustainability.


  • What motivated you to pursue a career in academia?

As a software engineer rapidly advancing at Philips Digital TV, I felt constrained by the limited scope of product development. The deeper I explored AI and image processing, the more I was consumed by more significant questions around the scalability, robustness, and explainability of AI systems – issues critical to the future trajectory of this powerful technology.

I realized that tackling these challenges required complete immersion in academia. So, in 2008, I took the plunge into a PhD at Nanyang Technological University. This transition provided me with a new path to advance the cause of AI research. 

Over the past decade, my research has focused on making artificial intelligence more scalable and explainable, which is critical in developing robust AI systems. 


  • How do you approach collaboration and knowledge exchange across different institutions and cultures?

Working with academics from India, China, Singapore, the U.S., Israel, the U.K., and 11 other European Union nations has been an incredibly enriching experience. Early on, I realized that embracing cultural diversity was key. Each country has unique academic traditions and communication styles that I needed to understand and respect. So, I made it a point to immerse myself, learn the nuances, and adapt accordingly.

But what elevated these partnerships was the mindset of mutual learning and flexibility I tried to bring. I wasn’t just teaching or being taught—it was a constant exchange of knowledge and perspectives, an openness to having my views challenged while offering the same opportunity.

This approach facilitated a much deeper engagement. What started as cross-institutional collaborations often blossomed into sustained relationships. We prioritized regular check-ins, co-authored publications, and jointly applied for grants. It was academic camaraderie at its finest.


  • Can you share some current projects or research initiatives you’re particularly excited about, and how do you see these advancements shaping the future of these fields?

The advancements from these high-impact projects, collectively funded at around 24 million Euros, are set to profoundly influence the fields of health diagnostics, reproduction technology, and environmental sustainability. The “nanoAI” initiative, focused on developing artificial intelligence to interpret nanoscale imagery, holds pivotal significance for accelerating breakthroughs in the life sciences. Its potential applications include earlier disease detection and unprecedented insights into cellular processes, which could revolutionize our understanding of biology and medicine.

Moreover, the “BETTER” project aims to transform health data analytics across the European Union by enhancing the interoperability of health data systems while ensuring robust data security and privacy measures. In organ-specific research, “OrganVision” creates real-time visual models of organ processes. This groundbreaking work could reshape our comprehension and treatment of organ-specific diseases by providing novel insights into health, disease progression, and recovery mechanisms. Complementing this initiative, “nanoVision” leverages an innovative photonic chip-based platform for high-throughput, multi-modal nanoscopy, pushing the boundaries of how we visualize cellular processes at unprecedented scales and speeds.

Addressing reproductive technology, “Spermotile” employs artificial intelligence to enhance the success rates of assisted reproduction technologies. While “VirtualStain” employs artificial intelligence to perform virtual staining on cardiovascular tissues, potentially reducing reliance on chemical dyes and expediting the diagnostic process. This cutting-edge approach could contribute to faster and more accurate cardiovascular disease diagnosis.


  • The ASME Journal of Nondestructive Evaluation, Diagnostics, and Prognostics of Engineering Systems has recognized you for your outstanding paper. Could you delve into the research behind this paper and its implications for the field?

The research recognized by the ASME Journal of Nondestructive Evaluation, Diagnostics, and Prognostics of Engineering Systems, titled “Deep Learning-Based Denoising of Acoustic Images Generated with Point Contact Method,” addresses a crucial challenge in improving the quality of acoustic images, which are essential for nondestructive evaluation techniques employed across various engineering disciplines. By leveraging deep learning algorithms to denoise these images, the research has significantly enhanced their clarity and usability, thereby improving the accuracy of assessments for structural integrity without causing any damage.

The implications of this study are substantial for fields that rely heavily on precise diagnostics of materials and components, such as aerospace, automotive, and manufacturing industries. Improved image quality leads to more reliable evaluations, preventing failures and accidents while reducing costs associated with physical testing methods. This contribution advances the technology in nondestructive testing. It sets a new benchmark for integrating artificial intelligence into traditional engineering diagnostics, promoting more widespread adoption of these advanced techniques in routine evaluations.


  • What advice would you give budding leaders trying to break into the industry?

Having navigated academia, corporations, and startups, I’ve learned that true leadership demands perpetual evolution. It’s more than hard skills – a diverse toolkit of soft skills, resilience, creativity, and ethics. You must be a lifelong learner, constantly adapting as landscapes shift. Most crucially, cultivate a network of meaningful relationships that provide new perspectives and opportunities. For entrepreneurs, alignment on the vision from the outset is crucial, providing a guiding light as you scale. Sustainable success stems from that dedication to self-improvement and team synergy while embracing a growth mindset.