At 18, an age when most students are enrolling as freshmen, Pratyush Muthukumar will be collecting his undergraduate diploma and adding it to an already extensive resume. The list of entities for which he’s conducted research includes NASA, Amazon, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the city of Los Angeles. Artificial intelligence is Muthukumar’s focus. “Watching the world being changed by self-driving cars, intelligent AI assistants and retail recommender systems inspired me to join this extremely new and growing field,” says the 2021 Goldwater Scholar, who transferred to UCI from Cal State Los Angeles. Vice Chancellor for Research Pramod Khargonekar calls Muthukumar “one of the very best students I have known in my entire career. I am confident that he is destined to achieve great success in his future endeavors.”
What is your favorite memory at UCI?
Computational biology, a course cross-listed under ICS, biomedical engineering and bio sci. After a year of remote learning, this was my first in-person course. Plus, it was a fun experience presenting a group project with my sister, Karishma, who’s majoring in cognitive sciences. Since it’s difficult to choose just one memory, I also enjoyed playing pickup basketball at the Anteater Recreation Center every Monday and Wednesday evening.
What are your plans after graduation?
I plan to pursue graduate school in machine learning and study deep reinforcement learning.
“[Muthukumar is…] one of the very best students I have known in my entire career. I am confident that he is destined to achieve great success in his future endeavors.”
– Pramod Khargonekar, vice chancellor for research
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I am passionate about being at the forefront of AI research, and I hope to be impacting the field of AI by increasing interconnectivity and compassion among people by developing cutting-edge intelligent systems.
Who was your biggest influence at UCI?
My research mentors, Vice Chancellor for Research Pramod Khargonekar and postdoc researcher Deepan Muthirayan. From adaptive controllers for autonomous vehicles to empathetic chatbots, we explored a variety of fascinating technologies. Their many insightful questions and suggestions helped me approach problems differently. I feel that much of my growth as a researcher came from an environment of asking “Why?”
What do you know now that you wish you had known before coming to UCI?
I wish I had known how fast the quarter system is – and how fast time at UCI flies!