C.I.S. Strong: Meet Tony Kipkemboi

Tony Kipkemboi (Image: courtesy of Tony Kipkemboi)

Although this current semester is Tony’s first with UPenn and the CIS community, the active duty U.S. Army Sergeant has been excited, preparing and active. When he’s not working at a  military Infectious Diseases Research laboratory as a Biological Research Assistant, you can find him practicing his python coding skills in preparation for his MCIT Online program.

Read more about Tony’s time with his wife and baby son, and his love of photography, below!

What research/ projects are you currently working on?

I am currently on active duty in the U.S. Army and working at a military Infectious Diseases Research laboratory as a Biological Research Assistant. We have been working on SARS-COVID research lately hoping to find a vaccine for the ongoing pandemic.

What has been keeping you grounded and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Other than work, I have been working on my onboarding class for my Master’s program MCIT online and taking family (wife and 15 months old son) on trips to ‘usually’ crowded destinations in DC. Best time to be out there is when there’s less people out and about. I have also been working to improve my python coding skills before classes start. I like running and I have been working out consistently: blissful. I have also been active on LinkedIn connecting with professionals in industry and catching up with my family and friends in Kenya.

What future research/ projects are you excited about?
I am excited to learn more from the MCIT program and jump into any interesting projects.

Favorite culture intakes right now?
You can find me binging on specific YouTube channels. I haven’t missed a single episode of Peter McKinnon (a professional Canadian photographer and YouTuber): he’s very skilled and always has good content and tips. You can tell I’m into photography. Another content creator I follow is Destin Sandlin (a graduate student, engineer, and science communicator at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.) His YouTube channel is called Smarter Every Day and rightfully so as he always has very cool content. I also binge on anything Space and Rockets. I don’t miss any Rocket Launches even the frequent Starlink Satellite launches by SpaceX!

Summer 2020 TA Awards!

Clockwise (from top left): Brandon Joel Gonzalez, Katie Pizziketti, Nicole Chiou, Serena Gandhi (Image: Penn Engineering Online Learning Twitter Acct.)

As the academic community has had to adapt to experience learning in a mostly virtual realm, the position of Teaching Assistant has morphed a bit as well. This year’s Summer 2020 TA Award Winners have been recognized for their outstanding ability to help facilitate efficient and smooth online engagement. CIS staff, faculty, and students are honored to have them!

Visit Penn Engineering Online to view the full list.

C.I.S. Strong: Meet Tejas Srivastava

Tejas Srivastava (Image: courtesy of Tejas Srivastava)

After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science Engineering back home at India’s University of Pune, Tejas Srivastava chose to join the UPenn CIS family as a graduate student (c/o 2021). And we’re so lucky to have him!

When Tejas is not listening to his favorite tech podcasts, or getting into a new workout routine, he’s probably studying ways to better interpret the data of human emotion. Find out more about Tejas and his work with the World Well Being Project below.

What research/ projects are you currently working on?

As a research assistant under Prof. Lyle Ungar within the World Well Being Project, I am currently working on building a generalizable emotion-based lexicon from social media data by interpreting and inverting deep neural networks for text classification. I am also working on some mini projects such as  building an online portfolio website to showcase my work, projects, experiences and learnings, and an app which shares select new photos from my phone and shares them with my parents and across devices (TV and tablet) back in India (still in progress).  Apart from these projects, I am spending time revising some subjects and preparing for the upcoming recruitment season.

What has been keeping you grounded and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic?

COVID-19 has sure propelled me to inculcate new habits and hobbies to maintain my well-being, one of the most significant ones being networking and talking to people. I have been spending time to talk to my parents daily and talking to friends back in India and fellow classmates at Penn and celebrating birthdays and other festivals virtually. I have also been attending a lot of virtual tech meetups hosted by Penn and communities in and around Philly and meeting new people with similar interests. I am also connecting with a lot of Penn Alumni, and talking to them about their experiences, and seeking general advice from them.

I spent some time redesigning my room and specifically my workplace, to create a welcoming and clean setup, knowing that I would have to spend a lot of time there.
Since the start of the pandemic, I have also started to cook a lot and spend more time in the kitchen and have tried a lot of new dishes, and enjoyed taking cooking breaks in between work. Very recently, I have also started basic workouts at home, and going on runs and walks (with proper precaution of course!) in and around Penn Park and Schuylkill River, exploring University City and some parts of Philly, in order to get some fresh air and compensate for my old regular walks to the campus from my apartment. Thus, I would say that the pandemic has given me a chance to pause, and re-evaluate myself, and with some time on hand, develop myself in a lot of ways.

What future research/ projects are you excited about?

Me along with my research group have made some progress on the lexicon building project, and I plan to continue to work on the same, as we are on the way to promising results. Apart from that I plan to take the distributed systems course in the upcoming semester, and am particularly excited to work on the course project, which includes building a fully-fledged distributed cloud platform from scratch.

Favorite culture intakes right now?

I recently started reading “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson, which talks about the philosophy of being successful by taking insignificant and simple decisions and actions, consistently over time, instead of waiting for or taking the one revolutionary move, and have been trying to test and implement the same. I also enjoy sometimes listening to podcasts while I workout and run, and specifically follow the Artificial Intelligence Podcast by Lex Fridman, and The ChangeLog podcast, where hosts interview hackers, leaders and innovators within software development and open source. I also indulge in some Bollywood music and occasional Prateek Kuhad (one of my favorite singers) songs while I run. Mostly on the weekends, I spend some free time watching videos on YouTube, following the latest in technology, and admire the works of MKBHD, Unbox Therapy, The Verge and many other tech Youtubers, and have also recently restarted watching “DeathNote,” one of my favorite animes.

GRASP Lab’s Fall Virtual Events

Oladapo (Dapo) Afolabi,  final year CS PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, was the featured speaker at GRASP Lab’s latest seminar, titled “Data Driven Perception for Autonomy.”

In the upcoming Fall semester, interdisciplinary academic center GRASP (General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception) Lab will present a series of seminars and events with speakers from all over the country. Speakers include Tichakorn (Nok) Wongpiromsarn, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at Iowa State University, and Penn CIS’ own Jim Gee. The GRASP Lab’s faculty contains a large chunk of CIS members.

Find more info The GRASP Lab’s upcoming events and seminars HERE.