From his first day in his high school’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) magnet program, Yash Thakkar knew he’d found his niche. He realized that beyond its practical applications, computer science — specifically, machine learning — has broader societal implications.
“There are so many opportunities for artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality to improve lives everywhere,” Thakkar explained. “Doctors can even use AI to help with cancer diagnoses.”
Inspired, Thakkar threw himself into all-things computers, including volunteering at local elementary schools in their afterschool STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology and Math) programs. It quickly became clear how many students lack access to the STEM experiences from which he’d benefitted. Technology, he thought, could play a key part in helping to level the playing field.
In addition to volunteering, Thakkar landed an internship in Kennesaw State University’s Cybersecurity program. There, he had the creative freedom and support to craft a machine learning model that can identify image-based adversarial noise attacks. He was grateful for the chance to connect with other students who shared his love of computers and his dream of using them to make important contributions to the world.
At Georgia State, where Thakkar is working to develop his own tech startup, he’s tapped into an invaluable network of faculty mentors and exclusive opportunities through the Honors College and the Presidential Scholarship.
“I’m so impressed with the professors I’ve met who have a great depth of knowledge. I want to learn as much as I can from them,” he said.
Thakkar plans to enroll in one of the university’s dual-degree programs through which he’ll pursue his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science concurrently.
Learn more about the Presidential Scholarship, Georgia State’s most prestigious and valuable academic award, and recipients like Thakkar.
Story by Boyd Baker, photos by Meg Buscema