Connected Conversations | Taseef Farook

Taseef Farook is a man of many talents—and infectious enthusiasm! A qualified dentist and recipient of the International Student of the Year Award in 2023, Taseef is currently undertaking a PhD blending artificial intelligence and the dynamics of the human jaw. He is also an emerging entrepreneur and founder of the Dental Loop, an initiative that aims to apply classic and cutting-edge AI techniques to enhance diagnostic support and patient engagement. On weekends, Taseef enjoys getting outside and discovering Adelaide’s many picturesque hikes—like the Mt Osmond lookout, with 360 degree views across Adelaide.

Taseef Farook

Please tell us your name and a little bit about yourself.

I'm incredibly grateful to even be sharing this part of my journey. Getting that scholarship for a PhD in Dentistry at the University of Adelaide in the middle of a pandemic was a result of the blessings of my well-wishers mixed with a wild proportion of pure luck. I must have rolled some dice with ‘critical success’ (DnD reference!) to have secured such an offer. Truthfully, however, I couldn't have done it without the support of so many incredible people who genuinely wanted to get rid of me in Bangladesh and Malaysia! My success story is a testament to the kindness of these incredible people who've played a pivotal role in shaping the person I am today.

I'm Taseef Farook—a PhD candidate, an aspiring entrepreneur, and a dentist with diverse experiences in digital healthcare and R&D across different countries and cultures. I've had the chance to work with patients, staff, and research participants, leading various research projects and securing funding and scholarships for my work in digital dentistry. I was humbled to receive the International Student of the Year 2023 Award and the Academic Excellence: Postgraduate Research Award from StudyAdelaide, presented by Her Excellency, Frances Adamson, the Governor of South Australia. Also, being a finalist in the Australian e-Challenge 2022 and winning the Enabled Solution Award for entrepreneurial excellence as the founder of the Dental Loop initiative has been an unreal journey. I have recently developed a habit of randomly pinching myself to see if I wake up all of a sudden!

Throughout my PhD journey, of which I am only 2 years in, I've gained priceless experience in recruiting talent, managing funds, organising workshops, public speaking, and tutoring. To my own surprise, my work has taken me to universities and clinics worldwide, allowing me to present at various international conferences and publish my research in highly respected peer-reviewed journals.

What was your first area of study and what drew you to this space? 

During my younger years, I faced bullying due to having crooked teeth, but a dentist changed my life by fixing them and boosting my confidence. That transformation inspired me to help others, which led me to pursue dentistry as my first field of study. The fact that dentistry also allowed me to have flexible working hours helped in the decision-making process!

Taseef Farook

What has been your journey to get where you are today?

The journey wasn’t easy, but I’m grateful for the support I received from many people along the way. From my undergraduate studies in Bangladesh to my Master’s degree in Malaysia, my path led me to a pivotal moment where I saw how research can profoundly impact lives, sparking a desire to pursue a career in this field. During my time in Malaysia, I worked with a compassionate team dedicated to providing facial prosthetic treatments for those with missing facial features. One particular moment stands out in my memory—a nine-year-old boy arrived with his father, having lost an eye at a young age. Due to the prolonged period without an eye, traditional methods were ineffective due to the adapted muscles. After months of tireless research, we discovered an alternative approach, finally helping the child wear the prosthesis. When he saw himself in the mirror, his radiant smile affirmed that progressing specialised dentistry through research was a path I wanted to explore. Two years later, as the Australian borders reopened post-pandemic, I arrived in the picturesque Festival State, and landed in the most lovable (or was it liveable?) city on Valentine’s Day…coincidence? I think not!

What are you working on now? What excites you the most about your research?

In my PhD, I'm delving into the dynamics of human jaw function during movement, speech, and activities like chewing using different predictive models and deep learning techniques. The ultimate goal that extends beyond the PhD is to integrate artificial intelligence into dental care, aspiring to develop an AI-driven dentist or dental assistant. Merging these two domains—dental healthcare and AI research—poses its challenges and sometimes faces scepticism. However, the excitement of navigating uncharted territories and witnessing tangible real-world outcomes is incredibly thrilling. Combining my passion for dentistry with my tech enthusiasm keeps me up at night, eagerly contemplating how to tackle the challenges that await each new day.

What do you love most about the University of Adelaide?

I admire the University of Adelaide for its inclusive culture and an engaging community that fosters an environment for pursuing one's passions with robust support from everyone involved.

Taseef Farook

What does the future look like for your area of study—and what part do you hope to play in it?

In the coming years, my aim is to pioneer advancements in a specialised field, aiming to fuse AI with dental care, with a focus on creating diagnostic tools to aid dental practitioners, support patients during and after dental procedures, and alleviate the overall dental care burden without adding to practitioners' workload. While this is the ambition, life's unpredictability encourages me to embrace opportunities as they arise. While I cannot predict the future, I envision myself as a successful healthcare researcher and philanthropic entrepreneur, giving back to the South Australian community that has played an integral role in shaping my career.

What is your favourite thing about living in Adelaide?

Over the weekends, when I am not working, I cherish spending time with my loved ones, regaling them with boring tales of my week. In my scarce moments of free time, once the chores (especially the laundry!) are handled, I love exploring the areas surrounding Adelaide, engaging in hikes. When indoors, I play video games or delve into the latest consumer tech updates over the internet.

What’s something that people are surprised to find out about you?

People are often taken aback when they discover that I'm a dentist engaged in a PhD program and are usually surprised by my age (29 at the time of writing this). This revelation, flattering in social settings, can pose a challenge with new patients in a dental practice! People are often surprised to find out that I'm a homebody on weekends, preferring to keep to myself. It's a bit contradictory, considering my love for both playing PC games and exploring new places. The mix of reactions on their faces sometimes leaves me wondering if they expect me to be skydiving off active volcanoes instead!

I am often asked how I manage studies, work, and all of my hobbies at the same time. Despite all these interests and activities, like everyone else, I too have only 24 hours in a day!

Taseef Farook

If you had to give a TED Talk about something unrelated to your studies, what would you speak about?

I'd love to give a TED Talk on strategy and role-playing video games, exploring how they facilitate the development of creativity and strategic thinking especially in healthcare and patient management. These games aren't just for mindless entertainment (although they can be, depending on how you role-play!)—they can help individuals prepare for the "long game" in life, teaching valuable skills beyond the screen(s).

Who would play you in the movie of your life, and why?

In a movie about my life, I'd probably want two actors to portray the different facets of my character—how I see myself versus the reality. I imagine Jesse Eisenberg, known for his roles in Zombieland and The Social Network, portraying the real-life me: funny, silly, adaptable, and a bit mischievous. In my head, Christoph Waltz, reminiscent of his role in Django Unchained, embodies the mature, composed dentist (something that I aspire to be!) who confronts injustice with finesse. Though convincing either Jesse or Christoph to take on the role of someone as unremarkable as me might be quite a stretch!

Instragram: @thfarook
Facebook: Taseef Hasan Farook


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