Ahmet Canberk Baykal, PhD student in Computer Science and Engineering

Can you briefly introduce yourself and share your background in AI research?
I received my B.S. degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Bilkent University in 2020. Since then I’ve been studying at Koç University and doing research on Generative AI at KUIS AI Center. I received my M.Sc. degree in 2022 and started PhD here. My supervisors are Assoc. Prof. Aykut Erdem and Prof. Deniz Yuret. I specifically work on text-guided image editing, in
which we manipulate images based on textual descriptions. I also work on other projects involving domain adaptation and video synthesis.

What initially sparked your interest in the field of AI? Was there a particular moment or experience that inspired you to pursue this area of study?
I have had interest in AI since the 3rd year of my undergraduate studies. I have taken related courses such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, in which we worked on projects like image captioning. My interest in AI grew after these courses as I thoroughly enjoyed working on these projects. After that, I heard about KUIS AI Center and I decided to apply for a fellowship, and luckily I got an offer 🙂 Ever since, I’ve been enjoying doing research here.

Could you tell us about your current research or thesis topic in AI? What motivated you to choose this specific area?
I work on text-guided image editing, where we manipulate images based on textual descriptions, such as adding a mustache or makeup to a face. This is an area where there are a lot of applications, like the social media apps we use in our mobile phones in daily life. When I first heard about it, it caught my attention immediately since I wanted to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes in these applications and how they are implemented. It is a very popular and interesting area of research, and I learn a lot every day from all the advancements that are made.

What are some of the key challenges you’ve encountered during your research? How have you been able to overcome them?
I especially had to overcome a lot of stress during my first year. It was during the pandemic, so I did not have a very social life during that year. All of my focus was on my work and studies, which caused a lot of stress. I met with other fellows online during this period, we discussed and helped each other, which helped me overcome these challenges. After the pandemic, we were
able to live on campus, which is great. I am balancing work and social life much better now and I feel like I made life-long friends.

How do you stay updated with the latest developments and research papers in the field of AI? Are there any particular resources or platforms you rely on?

I usually try to check arxiv frequently, if I see some related papers to my work I add them to my reading list. I also try to follow researchers on social media platforms like Twitter. If there are any recent publications, they show up on my feed and I bookmark them for later.

What advice would you give to aspiring students who are interested in pursuing a career in AI and considering graduate studies?
I would advise them to collaborate with as many people as they can or meet with other researchers and discuss their work, even if it is unrelated to their research area. This is especially helpful because you get to see other people’s perspectives and they might inspire you in your own work. You never know where your next bright idea is going to come from, it might be from something you see in other people’s work or their advice.

A book and movie that you recommend (they don’t have to be related to ai)
Book: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I enjoyed the Shakespeare references.
Movie: I find movies with non-linear timelines very interesting, so I’ll go with Memento.