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Student designs AI app to diagnose plant diseases

Alan Flurry

Shaza Mehdi tried diagnosing blighted flowers by Googling images of plant diseases and comparing those images with the sick roses, sparking an idea that led her to come up with PlantMD — a smartphone app that can diagnose a plant disease with the snap of a photo:

After three months of researching, coding and getting some help from her high school teachers, Mehdi launched the app.

“PlantMD works when you take a picture of a plant,” she said. “It tells you what plant it is and whether it is healthy or diseased, and if it is diseased, what disease it has.”

After her local paper wrote a story about her app development, a video team from Google came to learn more because she had used its TensorFlow software. They flew her to California to speak about her work at a conference. Wired also published an article about her work. All of this happened just as Mehdi was beginning her first year at the University of Georgia.

Her foray into app invention sparked an interest in the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence and Mehdi is now inspired to go beyond just recognizing plant diseases, something she plans to do as a computer science major in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

“I really love the potential to make technology more human,” she said. “I think there are so many potential applications for it.”

As Mehdi says, AI can be useful for many great things and she has surely developed one of them. Congratulations to one of the newest young inventors on our campus.

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