News featuring Nikhil Muralidhar

Sanghani Center students spend summer months gaining real-world experience at companies, labs, and organizations across the country


Yue Feng, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, is an intern with the Snap Research Creative Vision Team in Santa Monica, California.

With restrictions to working in physical office space still in effect, graduate students at the Sanghani Center are working remotely this summer for companies, labs, and programs from coast to coast. Students are not only gaining real-world experience from internships and other opportunities but, in many cases, they are also able to advance their own research interests.

Following is a list of Sanghani Center students and the work they are doing:

Badour AlBahar, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, is a computer vision intern at Adobe Vision group in San Jose, California. She is working on human reposing and animation. Her advisor is Jia-Bin Huang.

Sikiru Adewale, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is a software development engineer intern at Amazon Web Service in Seattle, Washington. He is working on data transfer and storage on the AWS snowball device. His advisor is Ismini Lourentzou.

Vasanth Reddy Baddam, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is an research intern at Siemens in Princeton, New Jersey. He is working on contributing to industrial research projects on leveraging machine learning to analyze multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL) algorithms and implement them. His advisor is Hoda Eldardiry. 


Subhodip Biswas
, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is working on Bayesian optimization techniques for automated machine learning (AutoML) and robust artificial intelligence systems as part of the Journeyman Fellowship he received from the DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Research Associateship Program (RAP) administered by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). His advisor is Naren Ramakrishnan.

Jie Bu, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is a research intern at Carbon 3D in Redwood City, California. He is working on artificial intelligence-powered computational geometry. His advisor is Anuj Karpatne.

Si Chen, a Ph.D. student in computer engineering, is a research intern at InnoPeak Technology in Seattle, Washington. She is working on research on model privacy protection. Her advisor is Ruoxi Jia.

Kai-Hsiang Cheng, a master’s degree student in computer science, is an intern at GTV Media Group in New York City. He is working on the content management system of the media’s platform. His advisor is Chang-Tien Lu.

Riya Dani, a master’s degree student in computer science, is a software engineer intern at Microsoft. She is working on web application developments under Azure. Her advisor is Ismini Lourentzou.

Debanjan Datta, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is an intern on the Amazon Web Services team at Amazon in Seattle, Washington. He is working on time series characterization and classification.  His advisor is Naren Ramakrishnan.

Arka Dawa Ph.D. student in computer science, is an applied scientist intern at Amazon Web Services Lambda Science Team in Seattle, Washington.  He is working on developing an automated causal machine learning framework for setting up experiments and estimating causal effects from observational data. His advisor is Anuj Karpatne.

Yue Feng, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, is an intern with the Snap Research Creative Vision Team in Santa Monica, California. She is working on a 3D computer vision project. Her advisor is Jia-Bin Huang.

Chen Gao, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, is a research intern at Google in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is working on creating video panoramas using a cellphone. His advisor is Jia-Bin Huang.

Jianfeng He, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is an intern at Tencent AI Lab in Seattle,Washington. He is working on research about multi-modal dialogue with mentors Linfeng Song and Kun Xu. His advisor is Chang Tien-Lu.

Taoran Ji, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is an intern at Moody’s Analytics in New York City. He is working on analyzing credit and financial data for the global financial markets, which will drive algorithmic improvements in Moody’s Analytics core machine learning and artificial intelligence-driven products. His advisor is Chang-Tien Lu.

Adheesh Juvekar, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is a machine learning and natural language processing intern at Deloitte & Touche LLP. He is working on automatically extracting relevant information from transactional invoices using state of the art deep learning techniques. His advisor is Edward Fox.

M. Maruf, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is a machine learning engineering intern at Qualcomm GNSS/location team in Santa Clara, California. He is applying machine learning techniques to hybrid technology fusion for navigation/positioning in mobile, wearable, automotive, and micro-mobility applications. His advisor is Anuj Karpatne.

Nikhil Muralidhar, a Ph.D. student in computer science, received an Applied Machine Learning Summer Research Fellowship at Los Alamos National Lab in Los Alamos, New Mexico, to work with researchers on physics-informed machine learning for modeling adsorption equilibria in fluid mixtures. His advisor is Naren Ramakrishnan. 

Makanjuola Ogunleye, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is an application support engineer intern at Northwestern Mutual in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His duties include coding, testing, and implementing complex programs from user specifications. He is also performing client data analysis to support engineering technology to improve and facilitate customer success. His advisor is Ismini Lourentzou.

Nishan Pokharel, a master’s degree student in computer science, is a software engineering intern at Capital One in Mclean, Virginia.  He is working on network infrastructure automation. His advisor is Chris North

Avi Seth, a master’s degree student in computer science, is serving as a graduate team leader this summer for Virginia Tech’s Data Science for the Public Good program. The group works on projects that address state, federal, and local government challenges around today’s relevant and critical social issues. His advisor is Ismini Lourentzou.

Mia Taylor, a master’s degree student in computer science, is a software development intern at Amazon Web Services in Seattle, Washington. Her team is working with Comprehend AutoML which allows customers to build customized natural language processing models using their own data. Her advisor is Lifu Huang.

Yiran Xu, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, is an intern with the Snap Research Creative Vision Team in Santa Monica, California. He is working on 3D human reconstruction and video generation/manipulation. His advisor is Jia-Bin Huang.

Shuaicheng Zhang, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is a natural language processing (NLP) research intern at Deloitte in New York City. He is part of the Audit and Assurance AI innovation team, working on open information extraction on internal control files to help auditors effortlessly process these files. His advisor is Lifu Huang.

Yuliang Zou, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, is a research intern at Waymo in Mountainview, California. He is working on the perception problem for self-driving cars.  His advisor is Jia-Bin Huang.


Virginia Tech researchers garner two major awards in COVID-19 forecasting challenges

Nikhil Muralidhar, a Ph.D. student at the Sanghani Center, is one of the Virginia Tech researchers on the winning DeepOutbreak team.

DeepOutbreak, a team of researchers from Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and the University of Iowa, has taken first place in the COVID-19 Symptom Data Challenge.

The competition explores how Facebook symptom survey data can enable earlier detection and improved situational awareness of COVID-19 and flu outbreaks that can help both public health authorities and the general public make better decisions.

The first place award, announced by Catalyst @Health 2.0 in late December, and the team’s work will be featured on the Facebook Data for Good blog. Facebook was one of the sponsors of the challenge. Click here to read more about the challenge.


Students focus on COVID-19 impacts on sustainability, education, and society

Clockwise from top left: UrbComp students Nikhil Muralidhar, Joshua Detwiler, Whitney Hayes, and Shane Bookhultz

Students in the urban computing graduate certificate program gave their group presentations via Zoom at the end of semester 2020 Spring Retreat, focusing on the very thing that led to this virtual format — COVID-19.

The students were charged with taking a look at the pandemic’s impact beyond health — such as economic outcomes, urban design, and interpersonal and online relationships — by Naren Ramakrishnan, the Thomas L. Phillips Professor of Engineering in the Department of Computer Science and director of the Discovery Analytics Center, which administers the National Science Foundation-sponsored multidisciplinary program. Click here to read more about the UrbComp Spring Retreat.


DAC Student Spotlight: Nikhil Muralidhar

Nikhil Muralidhar, DAC and UrbComp Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science

Graphic is from Muralidhar’s paper on “PhyNet: Physics Guided Neural Networks for Particle Drag Force Prediction in Assembly”

Choosing to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science at Virginia Tech was easy for Nikhil Muralidhar.

“Virginia Tech was my top choice for good reason,” Muralidhar said. “It is known for its quality research and interdepartmental collaborations, for encouraging students to work on real world interdisciplinary applications, and for pioneering programs like UrbComp.”

Also factoring in his decision was the opportunity to join the Discovery Analytics Center.

“I had been following DAC’s track record of high quality, practical research since I was a Virginia Tech undergraduate. I am happy to be part of a rare breed of research labs with both extensive industrial and academic collaborations. The facilities are state-of-the-art and the faculty are approachable, helpful, and use their experience to guide their students to become successful researchers,” said Muralidhar, who is advised by Naren Ramakrishnan.

He is also a research trainee in the National Science Foundation-sponsored multidisciplinary Urban Computing graduate certificate program, which is administered through DAC.

The focus of Muralidhar’s research is on applied machine learning.

Wide applicability and the potential to create widespread impact drew him to the burgeoning fields of data mining and pattern recognition. For example, he said, researchers have been effectively using data mining techniques to forecast influenza seasonal dynamics, while others have trained machine learning models to detect gun shots.

“There have also been applications of machine learning in medicine for the early detection of certain neural disorders, for design of patient-focused cancer treatment programs, and even to aid researchers in the discovery of new potentially life-saving drugs,” said Muralidhar.

In his work, he uses prior domain knowledge to help machine learning models learn more effectively, especially under data paucity or with noisy data.

“I have incorporated prior domain knowledge to multiple domains including computational fluid dynamics as part of a team which developed a physics guided machine learning model for predicting particle drag forces in multi-phase fluid flows,” Muralidhar said.

He said that computational fluid dynamics (CFD), and specifically multi-phase flows (i.e fluid particle systems), are an integral part of propulsion, automobile design, pharmaceuticals, food processing, and many environmental applications. However, because running CFD simulations at fine-grained scales is expensive, researchers generally run coarse grained simulations of systems of interest.

“Coarse grained simulations involve many approximations and abstractions of the underlying physics leading to a degradation of simulation accuracy,” Muralidhar said. “The goal in my research has been to incorporate machine learning models accompanied with the known physics governing a particular CFD process to improve the overall accuracy of the various facets of coarse grained CFD simulation.”

Muralidhar’s paper, “PhyNet: Physics Guided Neural Networks for Particle Drag Force Prediction in Assembly” was published at the 2020 SIAM International Conference on Data Mining.

Included among his other research collaborations are “Detection of False Data Injection Attacks in Cyber-Physical Systems using Dynamic Invariants” at the 2019 IEEE International Conference on Machine Learning and Applications; “Multivariate Long-Term State Forecasting in Cyber-Physical Systems: A Sequence to Sequence Approach” at the 2019 IEEE International Conference on Big Data; “DyAt nets: dynamic attention networks for state forecasting in cyber-physical systems” at proceedings of the 2019 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence; and “Detection of false data injection attacks in power systems using multiplex invariant networks and domain knowledge” at the 2019 IEEE International Conference On Machine Learning And Applications.

Muralidhar, who also holds a master’s degree from George Mason University, is projected to graduate in June 2021. He would like to pursue a career in academic research as part of a research lab or as a faculty member after receiving his Ph.D.


Urban computing program provides Ph.D. students with valuable skills to address problems faced by cities

UrbComp Ph.D. students, left to right top, Nikhil Muralidhar and Gloria Kang; bottom, Stacey Clifton and Davon Woodard

As increasing numbers of people move to cities and become more wired and networked, Ph.D. students across various academic disciplines at Virginia Tech are joining together to focus on how data science can help them find solutions to urban problems. Click here to learn more about these students and their research.