Degree Program: Computer Science, Ph.D.
Graduate Institution: UC Santa Cruz
Undergraduate Institution: University of Pune, India
Department: Computer Science and Engineering
Hometown: Pune, India
Computer science Ph.D. candidate Akhil Dixit’s research focuses on Consistent Query Answering, a principled approach to handling databases that contain erroneous data. After graduation, Akhil plans to join industry as a research scientist so he can solve real-world problems. When he isn’t computing consistent query answers on databases, you can usually find him drawing portraits, playing chess, or swimming.
What piqued your interest in computer science?
I had an early introduction to computers. I remember growing up playing games on my dad’s old computer. I started programming around 9th or 10th grade and that grew my interest in the field of computer science. I received my bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Pune and worked in industry for a while as a software engineer and researcher. My supervisors were research scientists, and I realized doing computer science research was of interest to me, so I decided to pursue a graduate degree in computer science.
Why did you choose Baskin Engineering?
There are three major reasons why I chose Baskin Engineering for my graduate studies. One, UC Santa Cruz has phenomenal computer science research faculty. Two, I wanted to be within close proximity of the Bay Area. And three, the campus is so beautiful, how could I say no to studying here?
What has been one of your favorite experiences at UCSC?
One of the experiences I have cherished the most is building a strong partnership with my advisor, distinguished Professor Phokion G. Kolaitis. He has helped me a lot with my research and has also presented plenty of opportunities for me to meet with people from not only academia but also from major Bay Area tech companies. I actually started out at UCSC in the master’s in computer science program in 2016 and wasn’t completely set on continuing on to get my Ph.D. It was not until I took one of Professor Kolaitis’ courses on theoretical computer science in 2017 that I knew I would want to continue into the doctoral studies program. I fell in love with the course and learned a lot from Professor Kolaitis. His depth of knowledge of computer science made me want to keep doing research at the doctoral level.
Tell me about the research you’re working on currently.
I’m interested in Consistent Query Answering, a principled approach to handling databases that contain erroneous data. It’s a computationally hard problem, and I’ve been working on building an open-source system that computes consistent answers to queries on large real-world databases. I’ve written three papers so far, and one of my papers recently got accepted, which I will be presenting this June. One highlight from the research I’ve done in my Ph.D. program is winning the ACM SIGMOD Student Research Competition in Amsterdam in 2019. It was a very exciting moment for me.
What are your future plans?
After graduating, my plans are to join industry as a research scientist where I’ll get to work on solving real-world problems. I’m hoping to get the chance to work in person in an office and not remote.
What advice would you give students just starting out the computer science Ph.D. program?
The most important thing is to choose a topic that you love learning about for your Ph.D. Make sure you manage your time wisely and plan each year out accordingly. And, just enjoy, you never get these glorious years back.
What do you like doing outside of the program?
I do a lot of pencil sketching in my free time. Portrait drawing is my favorite. I love to swim, which I have been missing out on with pools being closed due to COVID. I also enjoy playing chess.
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