News featuring Mandar Sharma

Sanghani Center Student Spotlight: Mandar Sharma

Graphic is from the paper “T3: Domain-Agnostic Neural Time-series Narration”

Would you like a virtual assistant that could go through chunks of large reports with pages upon pages of tables and raw numeric data and summarize it all in a short paragraph? 

This is what Mandar Sharma is trying to accomplish with his Ph.D. research in the area of natural language generation.

“The progress of artificial intelligence depends heavily upon our ability to communicate with machines and natural language is the crux of human communication,” Sharma said. The paper, “T3: Domain-Agnostic Neural Time-series Narration,” which he presented at the 2021 IEEE International Conference for Data Mining, generates succinct narratives that describe large time-series datasets.

“With a dataset of time-series and narrative pairs, a promising direction for future exploration lies in learning direct mappings from numbers to text, extending beyond just time-series,” said Sharma, who is advised by Naren Ramakrishnan.

Another paper relating to his research, “Once Upon A Time In Visualization: Understanding the Use of Textual Narratives for Causality,” was published at the 2020 IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics.

Sharma has an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the Institute of Engineering, Tribhuvan University, Nepal, where he achieved the highest rank in his department. He dabbled with machine learning in his undergrad thesis, he said, when his team used a Haar cascade classifier to train a robot to follow human gestures. 

Post-graduation, he worked in software development for a while but found it unrewarding. So he joined his alma mater as a research assistant and there began exploring the field of natural language processing. 

The decision to pursue research as a Ph.D. student in computer science led him to Virginia Tech. “Dr. Ramakrishnan’s strong theoretical background and openness to trying novel and diverse areas of machine learning brought me to the Sanghani Center. And I really appreciate his understanding and amenable nature as an advisor.”

Sharma said the Sanghani Center is particularly appealing to him because it integrates multiple facets of machine learning research into one collaborative environment. 

Sharma is projected to graduate in the 2023-24 academic year.

“The perfect life for me post-graduation would be a full-time position as an industrial researcher with a part-time affiliation at a nearby university where I can teach machine learning but we will see what the future brings,” he said.


DAC students working virtually at summer internships across the country

DAC Ph.D. student Chidubem Arachie is working remotely as an intern at Google Research.

A national pandemic that forced the closing of physical offices has not stopped graduate students at the Discovery Analytics Center from working remote internships at companies, research laboratories, and other institutions across the country. For many students, summer internships help further their own research as they gain real world experience.

Following is a list of DAC students and the work they are doing for the next few months:

Chidubem Arachiea Ph.D. student in computer science, is a research intern at Google Research in Mountain View California. He is working on generative modeling for 3D shapes. His advisor is Bert Huang.

John Aromando, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is an intern at Graf Research in Blacksburg, working on utilizing natural language processing to support the software verification process. His advisor is Edward Fox.

Hongjie Chen, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is a data science research intern at Adobe in San Jose, California. He is on the Cloud Technology Team, researching cloud resource allocation strategy. His advisor is Hoda Eldardiry.

Nurendra Choudhary, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is an applied science intern with the Amazon Search Team in Palo Alto, California. He is working on representation learning of products by leveraging the heterogeneous relations between them. His advisor is Chandan Reddy.

Joshua Detwiler, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is an intern for the Navy in Dahlgren, Virginia, where he is working on a distributed application for network analysis. His advisor is Layne Watson.

Chen Gao, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, is a research intern at Google in Mountain View, California. He is working on improvements to the portrait mode on the Google Pixel phone. His advisor is Jia-Bin Huang.

Akshita Jha, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is a research intern in the Interdigital AI Lab in Palo Alto, California. Her work involves building interpretable natural language processing models. Her advisor is Chandan Reddy.

Prerna Juneja, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is an intern at the Information Science Institute at the University of Southern California with Emilio Ferrara, assistant research professor and associate director of Applied Data Science in the Department of Computer Science. She is investigating the spread of COVID-19 related conspiracy theories on Twitter. Her advisor is Tanushree Mitra.

You Lu, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is a research intern at NEC Labs America in Princeton, New Jersey, working on sequence labeling for signals in fibers. His advisor is Bert Huang.

Shruti Phadke, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is doing a research internship with James Pennebaker, a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is studying online communities, their social processes, and behaviors. Her advisor is Tanushree Mitra.

Aarathi Raghuraman, a master’s degree student in computer science, is an intern at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), working with the Digital, Data, and Analytics team to maximize process yield in upstream biopharm manufacturing. She is advised by Lenwood Heath.

Esther Robb, a master’s degree student in electrical and computer engineering, is a research intern at Google working with a team in San Francisco on reinforcement learning. Her advisor is Jia-Bin Huang.

Mandar Sharma, a master’s student in computer science, is working as a machine learning intern with Toyota Motors North America, specifically the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) branch, to help NASCAR drivers make better decisions when they are racing. His advisor is Naren Ramakrishnan.

Aarohi Sumant, a master’s student in computer science, is an intern at Amazon. She is working with the Kindle Marketing Team to develop machine learning techniques for book recommendations based on cross user activities as well as single-user activities on different Amazon platforms. Her advisor is Edward Fox.

Afrina Tabassum, a Ph.D. student in computer science is a data science intern in the Data Science for The Public Good (DSPG) program at the Biocomplexity Institute’s Social and Decision Analytics Division (SDAD) at the University of Virginia. She is working on projects that address state, federal, and local government challenges around critical social issues relevant in the world today. Her advisor is Hoda Eldardiry.

Mia Taylor, a senior undergrad in computer science, is interning at Amazon Web Services in the Route 53 (DNS) service. Her advisor is Hoda Eldardiry.

Sirui Yao, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is an intern at Google, working on tag prediction for recommender systems through learning items and tags embeddings. Her advisor is Bert Huang.

Shengzhe Xu, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is interning at Facebook Ads Core ML, working on attention-based time sequential embedding aggregation. Xu’s advisor is Naren Ramakrishnan.

Ming Zhu, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is interning at Amazon. She is an applied scientist intern for Amazon Alexa AI, working on conversational query representation learning. Zhu’s advisor is Chandan Reddy.

Yuliang Zou, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, is working on learning with less/weaker annotations at Google. His advisor is Jia-Bin Huang.