Bertelsmann Education Group | Mountain View, 01/19/2021

Udacity Graduates On A Mission To Fight COVID-19

Subject: Society, Corona, Media & Services
Country: International
Category: Project

Two former lawyers from Hungary are using their knowledge of AI and Big Data acquired through the online university to improve healthcare during the pandemic. For example, they developed software that enables better visualization of pulmonary illnesses caused by COVID-19 on x-rays.

The example of Alex and Richard illustrates that learning IT competencies truly is an opportunity for everyone to develop new professional skills and even make a contribution to society with the newly acquired knowledge. The two former lawyers from Hungary have graduated from various Nanodegree programs offered by the American online education provider Udacity. Via the Bertelsmann Education Group, Bertelsmann is one of Udacity’s most important stakeholders. Today, as they explain in a Udacity blog, the two IT experts are contributing to supporting the healthcare system in various ways during the coronavirus pandemic. For example, they have developed software that enables better visualization of pulmonary illnesses caused by COVID-19 on x-rays.

A good dataset is just like a good lawsuit

Their journey out of the law office into the IT sector began five years ago. In the blog, they state: “People wonder why some lawyers change their careers to IT. We don’t know why others do it, but our reason was to have more challenges in our lives. There are some common methods in law and deep learning. For example, a good dataset is just like a good lawsuit, it should be defensible from every point of view.” Alex and Richard jointly considered ways to acquire the necessary expertise in order to realize their ideas. Due to the lack of possibilities in Hungary, they chose Udacity to acquire the necessary programming skills. They were even able to qualify to receive Udacity scholarships and have graduated from multiple programs over the course of several months with a Nanodegrees, which are highly recognized in the IT sector.

They acquired skills enabling them to work on several projects in various programming languages like Python, C++, SQL and PHP. “The biggest step in our progression was to change to deep learning two years ago,” they state in the Udacity blog. Through self-learning processes, this special method of processing information allows for entirely new approaches to questions connected to large data volumes. Alex and Richard are currently working on three different initiatives closely related to COVID-19, as well as another initiative that also provides insights into improving healthcare.

Software for the analysis of x-rays

Their first project was to visualize COVID-19-related data to help other data scientists get a more accurate understanding of the disease. They found the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) webpage, where daily data is provided about some important numbers. “We made a simple map with SVG and SQUL database background from that data,” explains Richard. And there was even more. “A lot of people used our daily datasets, so we decided to write a download helper software in Python. This is a little program to download the actual daily dataset and load it into a Pandas data frame. We provided an executable version of downloading software. Researchers are able to download the latest dataset with one click: running the executable version. It might not look like a big task, but it solves a real life problem.”

Another development of the two Udacity graduates provides direct use for patients with COVID-19 infection. They found that pneumonic analysis is the field where deep learning can help doctors and decided to develop pulmonary-analytic software to analyze x-ray images of lungs. It is able to identify the current status of pulmonary illnesses such as COVID-19. Now, the goal is to promote this software so that it reaches official use status worldwide.