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Ashwinkumar Ganesan

“Apart from the good faculty, I think (like many people), we have a pretty amazing president at UMBC whose personal history and personality is an inspiration to all. The culture of curiosity in the university, starts with him and is eventually nurtured by all faculty members.”

 

Hometown: Pune, India

Degree Program: Computer Science (Ph.D.)

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Tim Oates

Thesis/research topic:
I work in the area of Machine Learning with a focus on Deep Learning. Deep learning (and Artificial Intelligence in general) is transforming technology today, providing us new ways to interact with people, with data and with our environments. My thesis topic discusses the uses of deep learning in chatbots, so that we can have AI that converses with human beings while simultaneously performing tasks for us. Increasingly, these kinds of smart systems will be a part of our future, interacting with us, working for us, ultimately making our lives efficient and better.

Undergraduate Study:
2007, Bachelors in Computer Engineering, Maharashtra Institute Of Technology, University of Pune, India

Previous Graduate Study:
2012, M.S. Computer Science, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Why did you decide to attend UMBC?
The UMBC CSEE department has faculty that are reputed in their respective fields of research. The variety of courses available and potential opportunities to collaborate with people having diverse backgrounds, motivated me to choose the program.

What are some of the benefits of being part of the graduate community at UMBC?
UMBC’s graduate community as compared to many big schools is a tight-knit community with a highly open and collegial atmosphere. The environment is less stressful and people are very helpful. I found the attitude of most students and faculty to be positive and encouraging, especially in a PhD program where there is constant pressure to perform and publish. UMBC’s graduate community fosters a cooperative rather than a highly competitive environment. That environment is useful in coping with the myriad challenges that present themselves in graduate life.

What is your favorite thing about UMBC?
Apart from the good faculty, I think (like many people), we have a pretty amazing president at UMBC whose personal history and personality is an inspiration to all. The culture of curiosity in the university, starts with him and is eventually nurtured by all faculty members. Baltimore like most cities has its quirks, but the people are open and friendly. Also, Baltimore has a good night life!

Briefly describe your graduate research and its purposes/applications.
Chatbots and conversational AI agents are developing quickly because they have the potential to be very useful. They can make searching for content a lot easier and human-like especially since we as humans are able to provide a better context our needs while conversing. Factoring in this additional information can make the search process more effective. But this increased effectiveness comes with a challenge of how to deal with the language and its vagueness as well as different forms of communication like images and emoticons. My research focuses on algorithms where images and text can be seamlessly learned by an agent to improve conversations with humans.

Have you worked on any specific research projects that you would like to highlight?
I worked on an interesting visualization project that tries to provide insight about text documents using Topic Modeling methods like Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA).
Paper published TextVis 2015: LDAExplore: Visualizing Topic Models Generated Using Latent Dirichlet Allocation (Authors: Ashwinkumar Ganesan, Kiante Brantley, Shimei Pan, Jian Chen)
YouTube video showcasing the project: LDAExplore Video

What are your plans after graduation from UMBC?
I am open to both academic as well as a job at a research lab. I will like to continue working in the field of machine learning broadly.

When you are not teaching/researching, what are your hobbies or interests?
On weekdays, I usually prefer to watch Netflix or read a book, while I am at home. I love to try out the new food places in Baltimore and sample some of the local beer (Baltimore has some good local beer places). In short, traveling and meeting new people.

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