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Q&A With Fall 2019 PhD Graduate Dr. Ashkan Yousefpour

From the fall of 2015 to the Fall of 2019 the UT Dallas Computer Science Department has seen a number of PhD students graduate and go on to jobs in prestigious universities, top tier research facilities, government, and numerous technology-based companies.

Dr. Ashkan Yousefpour obtained his doctoral degree in Computer Science this past October while working in the UT Dallas Advanced Networks Research Lab (ANRL) while under the supervision of Dr. Jason Jue. He is currently a Visiting Researcher at University of California, Berkeley, working in the Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research (BAIR). He will join Facebook as a Research Scientist in Menlo Park, California, in 2020. His interests are: Computer Networking, Machine Learning, Software Development, and Fog/Cloud Computing. He served the Department of Computer Science at UT Dallas as a Lecturer, Teaching Assistant, and Research Assistant.

We spoke with Dr. Yousefpour to learn more about him, his research, his time at UT Dallas, and his plans for the future.


What is your primary area of research? I understand that you graduated with a PhD in Computer Science and worked with Dr. Jason Jue.

I work at the intersection of Machine Learning and Computer Networks. In particular, my research is about improving the Quality of Service in Machine Learning and Internet of Things applications, through fog computing.

What made you decide to pursue a PhD?

Well, after I got my undergraduate degree, I was thinking about pursuing a master’s or a PhD. I really wanted to learn more, and I felt an undergraduate degree was not enough. A friend of mine said something to me that made my decision to pursue a PhD lot simpler. He explained to me, “Imagine how much you learned in 4 years of your undergraduate degree. Now, imagine how much a two-year master’s degree could add to that. If you think that is not too much, then go for a PhD!” He was exactly right. I needed to do at least a PhD, to really quench my thirst for learning, as my passion for learning was so high.

Why did you choose to pursue your PhD at UT Dallas?

I applied to several schools, and UT Dallas was the one with the best offer! So, I was thrilled to accept the offer from UT Dallas. Plus, in the field of computer networking, which initially was my research focus, UT Dallas has many great professors and good research labs.

Describe your experience studying at UT Dallas.

Fabulous! I met some of the brightest and kindest people in my life, and I am truly grateful for them. Many of them are now my friends. These friendships are gold and will last forever. Some of the classes I took were just wonderful. I remember UT Dallas as a second home, full of good memories. Last but not least, the campus is so beautiful. All the buildings are modern and clean, and I love that!  

Do you have any advice to future students who wish to obtain a PhD at the UT Dallas Computer Science department? 

Be courageous in what you do. If your gut tells you to do something, but people around you advise you otherwise, do what your gut says. If you need to reach out to “big” (successful, famous, etc.) people, just do it! Don’t be afraid. Contact them, and you will be surprised by what the outcome could be. Don’t predict a negative outcome, that they may not respond or may reject you. I am talking about Steve Job’s level, “big.” Yes, you heard it right. Reach out to them.

During your time studying at UT Dallas, in what other projects did you take part?

I taught Discrete Mathematics for two semesters (and I really enjoyed it!). I took part in our Summer CS Outreach Programs and taught a class. I also invited and hosted some faculty from top universities to present their research through the CS Distinguished Lecture Series (thanks to Dr. Gupta’s support). I once participated in a Hackathon as well.

I have seen on your website that you have had papers published in numerous publications. Of which published papers are you most proud and why?

I am proud of the survey paper about fog computing we published recently in the Journal of Systems Architecture (click here). This survey is very comprehensive (it has around 450 references), and it is more of an encyclopedia. It also gave birth to the “Fog and Edge Computing Conferences and Journals Hub” which you can view by clicking here. This paper involved a significant effort and took a lot of time to finish, but it has since received a good amount of attention.

What are your plans for the future? Where have you interviewed, and where will you be employed?

I plan to expand my knowledge in Computer Science (and other sciences). I am still thirsty for knowledge. Short-term plan: I will be joining Facebook as a Research Scientist in January and before that, will be returning to UC Berkeley to continue my research. Long-term plan: I want to do something that has a significant impact. I am thinking more of an idea, a company, or a set of solutions that can significantly slow down (or hopefully, reverse) climate change. For this long-term goal, I am thinking of moonshot ideas and am willing to go on completely new paths.

Please explain your dissertation in layman’s terms.

The recent advances in the Internet of Things, Big Data, and Machine Learning have contributed to the rise of a growing number of complex and intelligent applications. Examples of such applications are real-time disease detection, self-driving vehicles, drone package delivery, and smart manufacturing. These emerging applications are often real-time, data-intensive, and delay-sensitive, and ensuring Quality of Service for these applications is a challenge. Quality of Service revolves around issues such as low-latency, high-bandwidth, and reliability of the application. Fog computing is seen as one promising solution for improving the Quality of Service for these applications, as it puts computing, storage, and networking resources closer to the user, as compared with cloud computing. (Think about it like this: fog is closer to the ground than the cloud. Fog Computing is like Cloud Computing closer to the users). In my dissertation, I showcase how fog computing can improve the Quality of Service (specifically, low-latency and reliability) in several emerging Internet of Things and Machine Learning applications.

Stay tuned for our next PhD interview with Dr. Vipin Singh Sehrawat later this week.


ABOUT THE UT DALLAS COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPARTMENT

The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 3,315 bachelors-degree students, more than 1,110 master’s students, 165 Ph.D. students,  52 tenure-track faculty members, and 44 full-time senior lecturers, as of Fall 2019. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.

 

 

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