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Maria Zontak

Lecturer - Seattle

Contact

Office Location

401 Terry Ave N, Ste. 103
Seattle, WA 98109

Mailing Address

Northeastern University
Attn: Maria Zontak, 109 SEA
401 Terry Ave N, Ste. 103
Seattle, WA 98109

Research Interests

  • Image Processing
  • Computer Vision
  • Biomedical Image Processing

Education

  • PhD in Mathematics and Computer Science, Weizmann Institute of Science – Israel
  • MSc in Electrical Engineering, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology – Israel
  • BSc in Electrical Engineering , Technion – Israel
  • BA in Physics, Technion – Israel

Biography

Maria Zontak is a Lecturer at Northeastern University’s College of Computer and Information Science’s Seattle campus. She earned her BS in Electrical Engineering and Physics and MS in Electrical Engineering from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Finally, she earned her PhD in Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel under a supervision of Professor Michal Irani.

Maria, born in Uzbekistan, spent most of her defining years in Israel, a country that has been dubbed the “Startup Nation”. Israeli startups have given rise to innovations in a range of fields, from agricultural irrigation, GPS navigation, driving assistance to life-saving cancer treatments.

What is your educational background?

In September 2014, I completed the PhD Program at Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, under a supervision of Prof. Michal Irani. My thesis focused on exploring statistics of natural images, required for deriving effective image priors for low-level computer vision applications.  

What is your research focus?

My field of interest is Computer Vision and Image Processing. I became fascinated by image processing during my undergraduate lab project, the goal of which was to develop an automatic algorithm for counting migrating birds (for the society of the nature protection in Israel).  This project exposed me to the power of image processing applications, that can facilitate and increase throughput for real-life tasks. This motivated me to continue in that field both in industry and academia. I have worked on applications of image processing for information extraction, alignment of images, sequence tracking and image enhancement. Specifically, in my Master’s thesis, I developed an algorithm for defect detection in patterned wafers (thin semiconductor slices, used for the fabrication of integrated circuits), that was partially incorporated into an industrial product of Applied Material. In my PhD thesis, I was exploiting how to improve natural image priors for computer vision tasks such as super-resolution and denoising. Recently, as a post-doc in the UW Bioengineering department, I worked on medical image analysis for automatic assessment of cardiovascular risk.

What are the specifics of your industry experience?

My first industry experience was an internship I did during my undergraduate studies. Later, I became an image processing engineer in the same company. I developed algorithms for local registration, and camera localization.

What courses/subjects do you teach?

Computer Vision and Pattern Analysis and Java Programming.

What do you enjoy most or find most rewarding about what you teach?

Computer Science has been transforming our lives in so many ways! I am excited to introduce to my students Computer Vision – one of the current hottest areas in the high-tech industries and academic research. You can find computer vision applications everywhere – starting from your smart-phone camera, surveillance and security, Google maps, medical diagnosis, autonomous cars and so much more.

While a strong Computer Vision developer must posses a solid knowledge in math and theoretical computer science, the core to a successful algorithm lies in a good programming. That’s why I also love teaching Computer Programming.

For me, any student is notable in his/her own way, if he/she shows diligence and passion to explore new fields and follow their professional goals.

Where did you grow up or spend your most defining years?

I was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. When I was twelve my family immigrated to Israel, where I lived most of my life and where my kids were born. I studied in Jerusalem, Haifa and Rehovot, but also lived and worked in Tel-Aviv.

Where did you study?

I always loved math, however, I wanted to be engaged in solving real life problems. That’s why I chose electrical engineering for my undergraduate studies. During the last year of my studies I had an internship job that influenced me to continue to graduate studies in image processing field. While I had enjoyed studies at the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa), I wanted to explore other institutions. So I decided to pursue my PhD in the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. I had the honor to be advised by Prof. Michal Irani, a renowned Computer Vision researcher and a wonderful teacher. My personal goal is to educate my students with similar passion and commitment to their success, as Prof. Irani had shown me!