Graduate Spotlight – Yash Sawant
Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the world every day, and students like Yash Sawant are embracing it and the multitude of career opportunities it offers.
In 2019, Durham College (DC) launched the Artificial Intelligence Analysis, Design and Implementation graduate certificate program, and added the Artificial Intelligence – Honours Bachelor degree program in 2022. Both are designed to prepare graduates to be the next generation of leaders who will not only participate in the AI discussion but push it forward.
It was the graduate certificate program that enticed Sawant, an international student from India, to come to DC. He immersed himself in his studies, and will cross the stage at convocation this month.
Having already worked as a software engineer in his native country, he came to class with a solid base of knowledge that the program quickly built on.
“I got to experiment and try new things, and that was a good experience. It really sharpened my skills,” he said. “This program gave me a lot of new skills, filled in gaps in my knowledge and made me realize I didn’t know certain things that I thought I knew.”
His passion for problem-solving is what pushed him to study AI, and as he delved deeper into the course material, he knew he had made the right choice.
“I realized as I worked on more projects that there were solutions that required a human way of thinking to solve problems,” he said. “If you want to automate something a human does, you need algorithms that can actually tackle that in a certain way and to understand many different outcomes and produce a solution. I found that AI-based solutions were leading in that. AI is the way to solve most of the problems.”
Sawant worked on a wide range of projects during his time at DC, both in and out of class. For the program’s first capstone project, he built a tool designed to detect fake news. For his next capstone, he designed an AI model to predict the stock market, which he demonstrated at DC’s Student IT Expo.
Students like Sawant aren’t alone in pushing the boundaries of AI solutions. The faculty is also charting new frontiers, according to Tony Doyle, executive dean of the Faculty of Science, Engineering & Information Technology (SEIT).
“Durham College is widely regarded for its responsiveness to emerging societal needs and demands. Our faculty participate in a range of activities designed to keep them at the forefront of information,” he said. “DC not only responds to emergent issues but works to stay current and indeed ahead of where the industry or society may be.”
One example of this is a project that Sawant is also involved in: the development and use of generative AI discussion tools like ChatGPT, and the creation of a DC chatbot. Work on the initiative continues, with the goal of producing a program that can answer any questions about DC.
In addition to his time in class, Sawant also put his skills and knowledge to good use in the AI Hub, where students work under lead data scientists to provide solutions for small businesses, entrepreneurs and other clients.
“I think it’s very important in this field that you actually practice what you’ve learned,” he said. “You have to keep applying yourself and doing projects and experimenting, and that’s how you learn best. You can’t just study the theory and expect to be employed. You have to be hands-on.”
There’s no denying the impact AI has already had on the world. Like any developing technology, it has the potential to create drastic change, for good and bad, and Sawant can see both sides of the argument. He believes it will have a huge impact on productivity, with AI assistants helping everyone work faster and more efficiently. But that very utility will inevitably take jobs away from people who need them.
What’s clear is that AI is here to stay, and the newly minted DC graduate is eager to see what the future holds as he builds his life and career in Canada.
“There are a lot of tasks that are very simple that don’t require any knowledge. Menial, repetitive tasks are going to be automated and that’s going to change the world. I want to be part of that revolution.”