Teena Chakkalayil Hassan is originally from India, where she also completed her Bachelors degree in Computer Science and Engineering. One of her main research objectives has always been to improve peoples' quality of life through the development of new technologies with a special focus on users with special needs. This brought her to Bonn-Rhine-Sieg University (H-BRS) where she pursued her interest in the Master of Science Course in Autonomous Systems (MAS).
Her research projects included the taxonomy and technology mapping of mobility assistance systems and recognizing emotions conveyed through facial expressions. Teenas Masters Thesis "Dynamic facial expression estimation by means of model fitting" has been acknowledged not only with the best possible grade (1.0) but also with the prize for the best masters' thesis of a female student among all departments of H-BRS. However, she does not need to fear male competition either: The DAAD awarded her the annual prize for the best international student among all departments at H-BRS.
After her graduation in 2014, Teena joined the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits in Erlangen with whom she had already collaborated for her Masters Thesis and other related projects. In her current position as a research associate she continues her work on automatic facial expression analysis.
Thankfully Teena took the time to look back at her time at H-BRS and share some of her impressions with us:
Prof. Dr. Erwin Prassler was my primary advisor for the R&D projects and the Master's thesis. He was the first to identify my interests in using technology for humanitarian purposes. He introduced me into assistive and social robotics, which were in line with my personal objectives. I am very grateful to him for playing a crucial role in forging my career. Thank you, Professor!
I had a wonderful time at H-BRS and in Bonn. I really felt comfortable and welcome. The professors and staff were very encouraging and always ready to help. HBRS has helped me take a great stride in life. I am really thankful for my time there.
Master of Autonomous Systems (MAS) is a very intensive program, with two R&D projects in addition to thesis. During the course of the study, I learned how to manage time effectively. Multiple deadlines don't look intimidating anymore! ;) I learned the basics of how to do scientific work at H-BRS. It helps me greatly in my job now. I think MAS is designed nicely to groom prospective researchers. HBRS has a very friendly, energetic and positive atmosphere. I feel very happy whenever I step into the HBRS campus. I often tell my friends and family, "Ich liebe Bonn!" and that I really miss H-BRS.
Here are two interesting anecdotes from my time at H-BRS:
The day of enrollment, the first few hours that I spent at H-BRS: I enrolled in February 2012. I had not found an accommodation in Bonn yet. I was deeply concerned. After enrolling, I met Mrs. Ute Schriefers-Jung at the International Office. I informed her that I did not have an accommodation yet. She gave me some contacts and said that she would see if anything more can be done. Afterwards, I met Iman and she gave me a walk around the campus. Just before leaving the campus, I received a call. When I answered, I found that it was Mrs. Schriefers-Jung! She asked me, "Are you still in the campus?" I said, "Yes, I am". She replied, "I just received an email saying that one of our international students has postponed his enrollment. He has also cancelled his reservation of a studentapartment. Therefore, if you are interested, I can request the administrators to reserve this apartment for you." I instantly said yes. I went to her office and she showed me photographs of the room. I was still in disbelief! Mrs. Schriefers-Jung was so elated that I felt that she was more happy for me than I was for myself! :) In a matter of 2 to 3 days, I received a confirmation about the reservation of the room. I am really thankful to Mrs. Schriefers-Jung and the International Office, for this very thoughtful act. It gave me an enormous positive feeling. On that day, my first day at H-BRS, I felt really welcome and accepted. I felt that I had made the right choice the choice to study at H-BRS, the choice to study in Bonn!
Encouragement for female students One of the things I like the most is the encouragement, appreciation and acceptance that female students receive at H-BRS. Here is one example, of how we felt special: It was time for one of the seminar sessions. Prof. Kraetzschmar was waiting in the room. When it was about time to start the session, he noticed that there were only female students in the class! As soon as he noticed it, he pulled out his phone and clicked a photo of us, and said something like: it is a rarity to have sessions in MAS with only female students and he wanted to capture that moment! It felt really special to hear that! :) A few moments after this photo was taken, a few male students walked in! So, at the end of the day, it was not a female-only class, but nevertheless, it gave us a special moment to cherish. :)
Some other nuggests from my collection of HBRS memories include:
- The trip to Magdeburg to view the RoboCup German Open 2012
- The short trip to Marksburg castle and Linz with other students of H-BRS (this was arranged by the International Office: Mrs. Schriefers-Jung and Lea Mund were there). During this trip, Mrs. Schriefers-Jung told us that she would be retiring soon and this would be probably her last trip along with the students of H-BRS. I was glad to be a part of that trip, which was a very special one for Mrs. Schriefers-Jung.
Are you still in touch with your former co-students and colleagues?
Yes, I am in touch. The best thing about MAS is that it is an international study program. There are students from different corners of the world, studying under the same roof! MAS and H-BRS have given me lots of friends from different nationalities. I keep in touch with them through the social networking media. Occasionally, we give each other a ring. We speak about our lives, current engagements and future plans. We also talk about the customs and traditions of the societies that each of us come from. Sometimes, we also encourage, guide and support each other. Sometimes, we become nostalgic about the time we spent together at H-BRS. I must add that the friendships that were founded during my time at H-BRS make me feel much more global than I used to feel before! :) They have helped me grow manifold as a human being!
Is there any practical advice you would like to give to our current and future students?
There were many occasions in my life when I felt unsure if I had made the right choices. However, my little experiences have shown me that if we believe in ourselves, work hard and be patient, then we can overcome the hurdles and become successful.
I am not sure if I am eligible to give advice, but maybe I will share my guiding principle in life. My guiding principle is: "Do not give up easily in life. Do not lose heart when faced with difficulties. While hard work brings success, persistent hard work brings change!"
Thank you, Teena, for sharing your views and memories with us!