Graduating student features: Three internships propel CSL student to job at Facebook


As told to Allie Arp

Many students are fortunate to receive work experience through an internship during their doctoral degree. Leda Sari will be leaving Illinois having completed three competitive internships during her time here studying under adviser Mark Hasegawa-Johnson. The internships allowed the electrical and computer engineering graduate to get a job at Facebook.

What are your plans after graduation?Leda Sari
I got a job offer from Facebook Artificial Intelligence. I will move to the Bay Area and join them in mid-June. My thesis work was on automatic speech recognition to reduce performance gaps between different gender groups, ages, and dialects to achieve fair speech recognition. At Facebook, I will continue working on speech recognition.

How will your experiences help you in this career?
Getting the general research experience at Illinois was, of course, the most important thing for me. I also completed three internships during my PhD, so those were helpful to get some real-life practice. My internships were at the IBM TJ Watson Research Center, the Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories, and a remote internship with Facebook.

What was your favorite part of your time at CSL?
I was connected to CSL through my TA-ship. In 2020, I was the CSL Student Conference Session Chair for the Machine Learning and Signal Processing session, which was a major thing for me. I was able to invite the keynote speaker, select student speakers, and interact/network with them. It was an interesting experience.

What advice do you have for current students?
In the very first week of my PhD program (electrical and computer engineering), there was an orientation session and someone from the college said, “You should take ownership of your degree.” Don’t wait for someone to ask you to do something; take the initiative. Take the responsibility of your studies or research because at the end, you will put your name on your publication. It’s your responsibility to take care of things.

Anything else to add?
During my time at Illinois, we collaborated with the educational psychology department to develop a computer interface for older adults in order to teach them how to take their medication. It was interesting to be involved in a project which combines engineering with social sciences.