Espousing the study of voice 

By Russ Cooper

Celia Shahnaz and Shaikh Fattah are building a sound future. Magnifying glass

Celia Shahnaz and Shaikh Fattah are building a sound future.

"He's the hardest working person I know. I don't say that as his wife; I say that as a fellow worker."

Celia Shahnaz knows a thing or two about her husband, PhD in electrical and computer science grad Shaikh Fattah. After all, she's also a PhD student in audio signal processing; identifying the traits in human voices.

The two met in Bangladesh and were married nine years ago. When Fattah was accepted to do his PhD here in audio signal processing in 2004, Shahnaz stayed behind. Shortly after, she was accepted to do her PhD in a very similar branch of the study here.

Expected to be finished this summer, her work is in scientifically distinguishing the differences in pitch of voice; male/female, old/young, as well as inflections present in different emotions. The work of Fattah, who graduated last fall and is currently a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University in New Jersey, focused on creating voice identification models that recognize the individual vocal tract (the voice equivalent of a finger print) in the presence of loud noise. Both have applications in the burgeoning voice recognition software industry.

It was his research, as well as his role as part-time teacher of two classes, that earned him 14 awards, fellowships and/or scholarships (including a prestigious 2008 NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship); 33 publications; and the opportunity to co-supervise seven undergraduate capstone projects, garnering one first prize and three honorable mentions. He'll also be receiving the Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation award in Natural Sciences and Engineering at convocation on June 9.

Fattah is quick to thank his supervisors, Professors M. Omair Ahmad and Wei-Ping Zhu, for providing support and research guidance. But it is perhaps Shahnaz who has been his biggest supporter – Fattah dedicated his lauded doctoral thesis to her.

"Her progressive mentality, caring inspiration and exceptional foresight helped me immensely," he says. "She's the accelerator in every sphere of my life."


Concordia University