Shreedhar Jangam is a first-year computer science student at the Baskin School of Engineering. Before he began his studies at UC Santa Cruz, he was working on a machine learning research project with a professor from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), which will soon turn into Jangam’s first publication. Jangam, an Eagle Scout, plans to join student organizations and research labs next year, so he can expand on his interests in aerospace engineering and autonomous robots.
Why did you choose UC Santa Cruz?
I applied to a bunch of universities but decided on UC Santa Cruz for a number of reasons, such as the proximity to my hometown of San Jose, the beautiful campus, and the many research opportunities available to students. There are a variety of programs and research options available here compared to the other universities I was considering. That definitely weighed into my decision to study at UCSC.
Tell me about the machine learning research project you’ve been working on during your first year at UCSC in collaboration with a professor at UMBC.
During my senior year of high school, I connected with Tim Oates, a professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). I was working on a transfer learning problem in machine learning, specifically reinforcement learning. This endeavor started with my fascination with autonomous robots. I was interested in figuring out how to get a cluster of drones to communicate and learn from one another to perform certain tasks. Professor Oates and I approached this problem with the machine learning paradigm multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL), where agents learn based on a reward structure. This structure helps build a learning curve and allows autonomous systems to perform tasks optimally over time. I’m almost done with my paper, so I’ll be publishing it sometime this summer.
What has your first-year experience been like?
It’s gone by way faster than I imagined it would. I’ve been really lucky to have great professors throughout my first year, and I formed a great group of friends here on campus. I decided to stay focused solely on my coursework this year. My plan is to start joining student organizations and labs next year. I wanted to make sure I was managing my time well and doing well in my classes before taking on new activities. I'm really interested in aerospace engineering, so I’ll be joining the Rocket Team in the fall.
I was a Boy Scout for several years and am an Eagle Scout now. One of the projects I worked on in the past for Eagle Scouts was to develop an emergency response team certification program. I want to build on that project and apply it at UC Santa Cruz to create an additional emergency response program where people on campus can be trained and deployed in an emergency when external help can’t get there in time.
What’s your favorite thing about being a Baskin Engineering student?
I love the opportunities available to engineering students. The weekly newsletters have helped me locate different student organizations and events happening on and off campus. That was one of the ways I heard about the annual hackathon, CruzHacks.
What was it like being part of CruzHacks?
It was a great collaborative experience with my peers. We came up with a wildfire tracking system, where we pulled data from the NASA database and plotted it using the Google API.
What are two or three academic goals you’d like to achieve before graduating?
I want to continue forming connections as networking is extremely important to a student's personal, academic, and future career success. I also want to continue getting good grades and take advantage of all the research opportunities that come my way to help me prepare for graduate school.
Interview date: May 18, 2022