At the Cutting Edge: One Alum’s Journey from Construction to AI
Growing up, Salisbury resident Joseph Robinson ’10 envisioned a future of building homes and digging for clams. Both were occupations that he had been engaged with from an early age, and both seemed like viable career options that could be pursued without much additional training after high school.
“I had no intention of pursuing academia,” he says.
This is an ironic statement coming from Robinson, who now holds a PhD and works dually as a machine learning expert at Northeastern University and Lead AI Engineer at BitHuman, an interactive AI agent platform. The change of plans, he says, ultimately came about due to a physical injury, which in an instant wiped away the possibility of a physically intensive career.
It was a turning point moment that Robinson considers “the best-worst day” of his life, and one that ultimately led him to Northern Essex Community College, and to an entirely new world of possibilities.
He started at NECC in 2007 with a range of math and engineering courses.
“NECC highly inspired me on fundamental mathematics, such as trig and calculus,” he says. “Professors such as Habib [Maagoul] and Paul Chanley had an unparalleled influence on my career path.”
After taking several classes, Robinson developed a keen interest in mechanical engineering, which eventually led him to several opportunities working with smart technologies. It was here, in the smart technology realm, that he found his footing.
“It was the visual data that grabbed my attention,” he says.
Upon receiving a certificate in Computer Aided Drafting from NECC, Robinson transferred to Northeastern University, where he switched his focus from mechanical to computer engineering and completed several co-ops in the visual domain, in addition to a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in microscopy. Eventually, Robinson’s studies led him to the computer vision and machine learning field and, by the time he started graduate school, he received funding from the Department of Homeland Security for a PhD.
Since then, Robinson has published over 35 peer-reviewed papers. He now splits his time between Northeastern, where he supports the university’s machine learning capabilities, and BitHuman, where he serves as a Lead AI Engineer to deliver interactive AI models for a wide range of industries.
Asked about what he loves most about his work, he says it’s the ability to be at the forefront of a constantly evolving field.
“I enjoy working on cutting-edge tech and deriving knowledge on a topic before it’s even covered in textbooks… I like wearing multiple hats and having endless things to learn.”