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Holakou Rahmanian: Graduate Student

What brought you to UC Santa Cruz?

I came to the States in 2012 as a refugee. I believe in the Baha’i faith and in Iran, Baha’i’s are under persecution so I fled to Turkey and then the U.S. government granted me asylum. I first went to Texas and I applied for different grad schools. I had a few different options and I chose to be in Santa Cruz because it’s beautiful. Also because of its proximity to Silicon Valley, and Manfred Warmuth. I met him in December 2012 and I decided that UC Santa Cruz was where I wanted to study.

Tell us about your research project(s).

My thesis has to do with machine learning with a focus on online learning. Machine learning is the science of learning patterns among data. In online learning, you don’t have all the data at once. Instead, the data is revealed little by little, but we construct models as if we have all the data already. The extension I’m making to this field is to build mathematical models that work with what we call combinatorial objects. These days in the industry it’s very common to work with huge amounts of data, and online learning can be used when you don’t have all the data, or when there is too much data. The processing power is oftentimes limited so with online learning we can split the data into smaller chunks and feed it to models that i’m building.

Why is the Baskin School of Engineering the right place for you to be doing this research?

Throughout my time as a graduate student here, I was very fortunate to be able to research with faculty members who are globally known for their work. Examples are my advisors, Vishi and Manfred. When I joined UC Santa Cruz, I thought, “This is a great place to do machine learning.” I was able to research with Vishi, Manfred, and David Helmbold, another faculty member, and even faculty from other schools like NYU. It was a great experience to research with a wide variety of faculty members. It wasn’t easy but it taught me how to research with many people, not just my advisor. In that respect, and especially because of Manfred who has been very influential to me, Baskin School of Engineering is the right place to do this kind of research.

What’s next?

I’m interviewing with different companies. I really want to do research in industry. My options are these big companies working in machine learning. Data science and machine learning is very hot these days and thankfully there are a lot of opportunities. I’m doing my best to find the best fit. I’m interviewing with Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and LinkedIn.

Time flies. I’m going to be graduating and getting my PhD. My education is coming to an end, but the learning never does. I’ll keep learning in different environments, whether it’s at school, in a working environment, or anything else.

What do you do in your spare time, when you’re not studying or doing research?

I just recently started surfing, taking Salsa lessons and SCUBA diving. I’m trying to do all these activities as much as I can before I leave. I’ve been surfing just once, but it was so exciting and I really want to do it again. Hiking in Santa Cruz is also amazing, even right behind the engineering buildings is a great trail. I also like hanging out with friends and playing video games in the lab.

Computer Science and Engineering
Degree Program: 
Ph.D., Computer Science
Place of Birth: 
Tehran, Iran
Undergraduate Institution: 
Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE)
Graduate Institution: 
UC Santa Cruz
S.V.N. Vishwanathan and Manfred Warmuth