fortiss researchers in focus

fortiss researchers in focus

Esra navigates the future of mobility.

Hello Esra. Can you give us some insights into your work at fortiss?

As a researcher at fortiss, I am part of the Machine Learning team, where I am mainly involved in projects related to Autonomous Driving (AD). My research interests revolve around machine learning, visual data analysis, and safe Artificial Intelligence (AI). Projects I am involved in are KI-Absicherung and KI-Wissen. These projects focus on different aspects of the use of AI in the field of AD. In KI-Absicherung, our goal is to make the safety of AI-based functions in AD verifiable. To achieve this, I contributed to the development of an exemplary safety argumentation for a complex AI-based pedestrian detection function, using various methods and measures that target different aspects of a deep neural network, such as robustness and plausibility, as evidence of the safety of the AI component. In KI-Wissen, we address the planning part of AD and monitor the conformance of a Reinforcement Learning (RL) agent to traffic rules within the context of behavior planning. These projects have allowed me to deepen my knowledge and experience in machine learning and AI, while also contributing to the advancement of the field of AD.

What is your research focus?

My research focus has been primarily on the use of AI in the context of autonomous driving. Specifically, I have been working on improving the perception and behavior-planning components of AD systems. The perception component involves object detection, where the goal is to accurately detect and classify objects in the environment such as other vehicles, pedestrians, and obstacles. To achieve this, I have been exploring different machine learning algorithms such as deep neural networks and developing new methods to improve the accuracy and efficiency of object detection. In addition, I have also been working on the behavior planning component of AD systems. Here, the focus is on developing safe and efficient decision-making algorithms that allow the autonomous vehicle to navigate complex traffic scenarios while adhering to traffic rules and regulations. To achieve this, I have been working on applying RL-techniques to develop adaptive decision-making algorithms that can learn from experience. Overall, my research focus has been on developing AI-based solutions that can improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of autonomous driving systems, and I am passionate about continuing to explore new and innovative ways to achieve these goals.

What have you done particularly well in the last few months?

Over the past few months, I've been focused on contributing to the integration of two AI-based pedestrian detection components into a vehicle platform. These components resulted from the KI Absicherung project that I was also involved in, and it was very satisfying to see how our research project was being applied in the real world. Being able to contribute to this integration process was a great opportunity for me to apply my knowledge and skills in AI and autonomous driving in a practical setting. I believe that my attention to detail and ability to work collaboratively with the team played a crucial role in successfully integrating the pedestrian detection components into the vehicle platform. I am excited to see how our work will contribute to the overall goal of making autonomous vehicles safer and more reliable.

How long have you been programming and what do you find exciting about it?

I started programming during my Bachelor's studies in the study of Computer Engineering. From the beginning, I was fascinated by the idea of analyzing a real-world problem and then designing and implementing a solution based on this analysis. Programming allows me to create something from scratch, and there's a great sense of satisfaction in seeing a program or project come together after investing a lot of time and effort into it. What I find most exciting about programming is the endless possibilities it offers for problem-solving and innovation. With the right skills and tools, you can create almost anything you can imagine. Programming also enables me to collaborate with others on complex projects, learn from my colleagues and mentors, and keep up with the latest technologies and techniques in the field.

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"I was impressed by the institute's reputation as a leading research center in the field of applied software technology. I also found that fortiss' research focuses aligned well with my interests in AI and autonomous systems."

fortiss researcher Esra Acar Celik

How did you find out about fortiss?

After completing my Ph.D. in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Technical University of Berlin, I moved to Munich and started working as a lead software engineer. Although I enjoyed my work, I missed the research aspect of my previous role. So I began to search for opportunities to return to the research field. During this search, I came across a job offer from fortiss, which immediately caught my attention. I was impressed by the institute's reputation as a leading research center in the field of applied software technology. I also found that fortiss' research focuses aligned well with my interests in AI and autonomous systems. So I decided to apply for the position, and I was thrilled to join the team at fortiss."

How do you feel about the working environment at fortiss? 

The working environment at fortiss is very positive. One of the things I appreciate the most is the flexibility that the institute offers. Researchers here have a lot of autonomy and can shape their work according to their interests and expertise. This means that you have the opportunity to learn and gain experience in the research areas that you are passionate about, and also to develop your skills in other related areas. Another great aspect of the working environment at fortiss is the collaborative nature of the research projects. The institute has strong partnerships with academic and industrial partners, which means that you can work on challenging and impactful projects with a wide range of experts from different fields. This collaborative environment allows you to learn from others and tackle complex problems from different perspectives, which is very rewarding and stimulating. Overall, I find that the working environment at fortiss is very supportive, dynamic, and stimulating. It provides researchers with the resources, support, and freedom to pursue their research interests and make meaningful contributions to the field of software-intensive systems.

"I find it very motivating to work on research topics that are applied in industry and that ultimately have a positive impact on people's lives."

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That sounds great. How do you feel about your colleagues in this context?

I am fortunate to work with a very talented and diverse group of colleagues here at fortiss. Our team is international, which is great because it brings a wide range of perspectives and experiences to the table. Everyone is very competent and knowledgeable in their respective areas, which makes collaborating with them a real pleasure. Not only are they skilled professionals, but they are also friendly and approachable, always willing to help out when needed. Over the years, I have worked with several of my colleagues on various AI projects, and we have been able to successfully deliver high-quality results together.

What drives you in your job?

As a researcher, what drives me the most is the possibility to see the practical applications of our research projects. I find it very motivating to work on research topics that are applied in industry and that ultimately have a positive impact on people's lives. In particular, I am very interested in bridging the gap between academia and industry by conducting applied research. I believe that it is important to not only generate new knowledge but also to make it useful and applicable to real-world problems. As for my personal goals, I want to continue working in the field of autonomous driving and gain more expertise in unstructured data analysis. This is a rapidly evolving field with many interesting challenges, and I find it very rewarding to work on research that can potentially contribute to the development of autonomous vehicles and ultimately make transportation safer and more efficient.

What is your biggest challenge in this?

Staying up to date with recent advances in my research areas is a challenge for me, as the field of computer science is constantly evolving. However, this challenge is also what motivates me to keep going. I truly enjoy what I do in my current projects, and I see the importance of staying up to date to deliver the best results possible. Moreover, I find it exhilarating to learn while working and to see how my work can make an impact in the real world. Therefore, I see this challenge as an opportunity to continuously improve my skills and knowledge in my field.

Is there a vision you are pursuing in this? 

My vision is to see the research that I am involved in at fortiss being applied in the real world, particularly in the field of autonomous driving. I want to see our research results integrated into the vehicle platform to demonstrate their real-world applicability and potential impact on the industry. Additionally, I am passionate about contributing to the safety aspect of AI-based systems and bridging the gap between the safety and AI worlds. My goal is to ensure that AI-based systems are safe, reliable, and trustworthy and that they are widely adopted in various industries to improve people's lives. I am excited to be part of fortiss and its efforts to bridge the gap between academia and industry, and I look forward to continuing to contribute to cutting-edge research in the field of AD and beyond.

What advantage at fortiss would you highlight for applicants?

As someone who has been working at fortiss for several years now, I would say that one of the key advantages of working here is the highly collaborative and interdisciplinary environment. The diverse range of expertise and perspectives that my colleagues bring to the table makes for some really interesting and innovative projects. For applicants considering fortiss, my advice would be to take the time to understand the research areas and projects that we work on. This will not only help you to determine if fortiss is the right fit for you, but it will also enable you to come to the interview with thoughtful questions and ideas. During the application process, my tip would be, to be honest and open about your strengths and weaknesses. We are looking for people who are passionate about their work, but also humble enough to recognize that there is always room for growth and improvement.