Hey, I’m Amul Agrawal, a B.Tech CS graduate from IIIT Hyderabad’s batch of 2023. Currently, I am working as an SDE at Uber. My college life was an unforgettable experience, filled with many lifelong friends. Throughout my college life, I passionately engaged in two distinct but equally fulfilling pursuits: research and competitive programming (CP). While I was initially drawn to CP due to my fascination with logical problem-solving, I quickly excelled in it and was lucky enough to lead the Programming Club and represent my college at the ICPC World Finals. However, I had limited experience with research and was unsure about its appeal to me. Despite this, I decided to embark on a research journey with Precog, and the experience has had a profound impact on my personal and professional growth. In this blog, I am excited to share my insights and reflections on this transformative experience.
How did it begin?
It was the winter break of December 2020, and I had just completed my third semester. As I sat at home, scrolling through my emails, one message caught my eye: “Applications to work with Precog are open, apply if you are interested”. Despite being a single-degree student with no research commitments, I felt compelled to apply for the opportunity to delve into the world of research. What made the opportunity even more enticing was the chance to work with my personal idols – the esteemed senior members of Precog.
Although I was excited about embarking on this new adventure, I had concerns about my lack of domain knowledge. Fortunately, the lab was very welcoming, and PK and the senior members made sure that discussions were detailed and easy for newcomers to understand. They even organized a summer school after Spring’21 to teach us essential skills in Data Science and related fields. Thanks to this onboarding program, I felt more confident and prepared to contribute to Precog’s research endeavors.
In the fall of 2021, I embarked on my first project with Arnav. Our primary objective was to curate a dataset of court case documents in Hindi and utilize it for a downstream task of bail prediction. The team consisted of highly experienced individuals, and while initially intimidated by their expertise, it was an opportunity to learn from them. I was amazed at how much knowledge and insight each team member brought to the table. As we progressed through the project, we submitted our findings to ACL, and our hard work paid off – we were ecstatic to receive acceptance for the paper. I owe a big thank you to Arnav for his immense help in this project, his exceptional project management skills helped us achieve our goals efficiently.
Next, In Spring’22, we initiated a collaboration with NSE to explore potential projects of mutual interest. NSE offered us access to their extensive trade data with the expectation that we would develop a project aligned with Precog’s objectives. However, they required a comprehensive project plan before releasing the sensitive data. This presented a significant challenge as we had limited expertise in the finance domain, particularly when compared to NSE’s extensive knowledge. We dedicated substantial effort to comprehending the nuances of finance, particularly in the domains of behavioral finance or pump-and-dump schemes. Unfortunately, despite our efforts, we were unable to generate a novel idea that aligned with our goals. Ultimately, we decided to discontinue the project, but this experience taught me a valuable lesson that it is essential to be prepared to accept the possibility of project failure, as not all ideas will yield fruitful results, but the knowledge gained through the process can be invaluable.
In Fall’22, I joined a graph fairness project with Aakash, Arvindh, and Dr. Ramasuri from Adobe. This project was unlike any of my previous projects as the team was smaller, and there were no senior students involved (basically I was old by now 😔). This meant that I had more responsibility and was expected to represent the team at a higher level. Luckily, my experience with graphs from competitive programming came in handy for me to understand the project better, and the small team size had many advantages. We could meet frequently without worrying about everyone’s availability, and everyone was aware of all the aspects of the project, making progress much faster. We finished our work in Jan’23 and submitted it to IJCAI but unfortunately, it got rejected there recently.
I am now working on the Fairness Project, improving the existing work.
PK and Precog
PK’s influence on my research journey has been truly indispensable. His unwavering work ethic and commitment to his craft are both inspiring and contagious, pushing me to strive for excellence in my own work. What I appreciate most about PK is the freedom he provides us to explore our research interests while always being available for thoughtful discussions and guidance. His dedicated discussion slots at the end of each semester provide an excellent opportunity for us to reflect on our progress and receive constructive feedback, further improving our work.
However, PK’s mentorship goes beyond just research. He has taught me invaluable lessons about the research process and how to navigate its inevitable ups and downs. Whether we are celebrating successes or working through challenges, he remains a supportive and dedicated mentor, always ready to provide guidance and encouragement. His unwavering support has instilled in me a sense of confidence and passion that I know I will carry with me throughout my career.
Beyond the work itself, the atmosphere in Precog is both enjoyable and stimulating. We frequently plan engaging events, such as bowling nights and movie screenings, which provide a much-needed break from the rigors of research. One of the most significant benefits of working with PK is the access he provides to his vast global network of students and collaborators. Through this network, I have had the opportunity to engage with a diverse range of individuals and perspectives, enriching my understanding of the field and fostering new collaborations.
Overall, I am deeply grateful for the mentorship and support PK has provided me, and I know that I will carry the lessons and experiences gained through Precog with me throughout my career.
Cheers to the amazing experience!