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Can you tell us about your background?
Abhishek was born and raised in Lucknow, India – the capital city of Uttar Pradesh that combines modern hustle bustle with an old world charm and its very own unique culture. He grew up in a family of engineers and doctors. His grandfather, one of the first Chief Engineers in post-independent India, oversaw several important water resources projects that helped convert the Gangetic Plains of India into one of the biggest agricultural producers in the world. Abhishek’s parents – both doctors – instilled in him the love of science and discovery.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?
“A morbid fear of cadavers and all things bloody made me decide to skip a generation and follow the lead of my grandfather. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) in 2001.” While at BITS, Abhishek grew fascinated with the potential for artificial intelligence and machine-learning to solve many engineering problems.
To pursue his interest in ‘intelligent design’, Abhishek decided to get a Master’s and PhD from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in civil and environmental engineering. His PhD research focused on human-computer interactive (HCI) decision-frameworks that combine the numerical/quantitative powers of computers with the subjective knowledge of human experts. This is particularly important in solving environmental problems that often pose technical, social, and economic challenges. His research also focused on statistical learning and data-mining to reduce the uncertainty and improve the efficiency of HCI systems. For his thesis, he developed an interactive calibration framework that combined expert-based geologic knowledge with hydrogeologic field-data to create more robust groundwater models.
What was your career path after PhD?
Abhishek joined INTERA after completing his PhD in 2007. “INTERA provides me with the ideal environment to apply my skill-sets in numerical modeling, data-mining, and statistical analysis to complex real-world water resources and environmental problems.” His work has included developing groundwater availability models of aquifers, creating a GIS-based vulnerability indicator for water resources, and building decision-frameworks to help deal address the uncertainty and multiple objectives that environmental and water resources problems typically pose. “INTERA offers everything that I could wish for in a career—an amazing depth and variety in technical projects, independence to take creative initiative, a collegial and team-work oriented work environment, and some of the smartest and friendliest co-workers out there!”
Abhishek’s core is his family. When he’s not driving the kids to/from soccer games or piano lessons or play-dates or birthday parties (…phew!), he loves going on nature hikes with the family, mucking around in his vegetable garden, cooking for friends and family, and helping organize Indian Classical music concerts. Abhishek is an avid music enthusiast and enjoys learning (and very occasionally performing) Indian Classical music.