Semester II @ USC

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Its’ been almost 3 months since I have posted anything on my blog, finally got some free time after the Semester. The semester has been quite hectic for me, and hence I never really got time to write about any interesting Stuff I was doing. In this post, I will try to summarize all the exceptional things I did during the semester. Also, I’d like to mention here that I have just updated my Blog a few days back, as you can see… It has a new domain name now, which is my name.. and some changes to the CSS. But overall I tried to keep it minimal, simple and clean.

Let me get started by talking about the subjects I took this time. So I had taken up two difficult subjects this Semester at USC. Algorithms under Shamsian Shahriar and Data Mining which was taught by Yao-Yi Chiang. Both of them were challenging in their fronts. While the first one as the name suggests was all about Algorithms, the other one focused majorly on the Big Data and its applications.

Algorithms Course undoubtedly was quite an experiment for me. It isn’t one of the mandatory subjects for my degree, yet I wanted to take it as I had heard a lot about the course from my friends and Seniors. It was worth the risk as the whole semester I was grilled with so many fascinating algorithms. My knowledge about all the famous Algorithmic techniques such as Dynamic Programming, Greedy Algorithms, Stable Matching, Divide and Conquer, Linear Programming, Randomized Algorithms, and Approximation algorithms strengthened. I feel much more confident while giving any coding round or just solving any question on LeetCode as I can use the above techniques to solve the question. We also studied various Data Structures, Algorithmic complexities and the famous P vs NP problem. Given a question I can manage to find some solution, either optimal or approximate, and analyze it’s space and runtime complexity. Hence, if you are an upcoming or current CS Trojan, I will encourage you to take up the course. I also wanna add that you should practice the techniques you learned in the class by solving LeetCode questions throughout the semester to strengthen your knowledge about the Subject.

The second one is one of the most sought out subjects at USC. Data Mining is a subject which pertains to Big Data and its’ applications. What I loved most about the course was that we were given challenging assignments throughout the semester and in order to gain even the minimum score we had to bear the TA’s metrics, which does make the task a li’ll more difficult than usual. We also had to work on a Recommendation engine as a part of the final Project submission. I got to study a lot about various algorithms that were used to deal with Big Data such as MapReduce, min-hashing and Least Sensitivity Hashing. We learned about User-based, Item-based, and model-based Recommendation systems and about the various metrics used for calculating similarities such as Pearson Correlation, Jaccard Similarity, Euclidean Distance and Cosine Distance. Other than that we studied about the Social Network Clustering Algorithms such as KMeans, BFR, Clustering using Representation (CURE). We ended the semester by understanding the Google’s Page Rank Algorithm, it’s Adwords Model, a whole study on Google’s approach to deal with the spam Farms and how it filters the pages in order to give out best results for our Search Terms. Let me know in the comments if you want to know more about any of the above techniques, I’d love to write about them.

On the Research front, the Glaucoma Project at Keck School of Medicine, that I was involved with since the very beginning at USC, is going great. The first paper was presented at the World Glaucoma Conference, Australia last month and it got excellent reviews. We’ve recently made some quick fixes to the paper and its’ ready for publishing. So that’s fabulous. We are headed into the second phase of the Project, where now we need some more firm results which help to automate the whole process of Glaucoma Detection. But overall it’s going strong and everyone in my Team is pretty excited and positive about its future outcomes.

Besides that, I got a chance of attending Caltech’s Hackathon event ‘HackTech’. Must say everything that been said about Caltech is so Correct, the place resonates knowledge. Even though we didn’t win any prizes, it was one-of-its-kind experience participating in it. I didn’t have a chance to attend any other Hackathons after that, missed the UCLA one as I had my mid-semester exam on the same day. I’d advise all the incoming Grad/Undergrad CS Students to participate in as many hackathons as possible, they give you a platform to showcase your Skills. Additionally, you get to meet a lot of new like-minded people there.

This semester I have gotten a new addiction of watching “The Office”, an American television sitcom which depicts the everyday lives of office employees in the Scranton, Pennsylvania branch of the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. It’s one of the most hilarious shows I have come across and I am in complete awe of all its characters with Dwight Schrute being my Favorite, followed by Michael Scott and the ever-charming Jim Halpert. Also, the third episode of the last Season of GoT aired just a couple of days back and I must admit no one saw that coming, the makers have left all the fans stunned. To me, Arya Stark is symbolic to the rising women power in society. #WomenIstheNewStrong #GirlBoss. (I know with this paragraph I went completely out of topic, but I just wanted to write about it anyway :D)

In the upcoming months of Summer, I will be interning at Pluto7 – a services and solutions company focused on building ML, AI, Analytics, and IoT tailored solutions to accelerate business transformation. Looking forward to it since that will be my first real Job as a Data Engineer. Plus, I have some really amazing ideas for the blog which are under pipeline and if everything goes well then it’s going to be a big learning experience for me.

Fall semester is approaching soon, and I know many new students are going to be joining USC, and have their doubts. I have been getting a lot of messages on my LinkedIn from incoming students. I didn’t have enough time to reply to each one of them. Hopefully, the upcoming months are going to be a little more relaxed, so feel free to ping me with your doubts. I am planning to write a separate post about it, answering all your queries. Comment down your questions and I will try to answer it to my best. Thank you for reading so far… I hope you have a wonderful Summer #FightOn 😀

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