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Graduate Student Profile
Chris Gatti
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Chris Gatti

Hometown: Chelmsford, MA, USA
Undergraduate Study: University of Michigan, B.S. Biomedical Engineering, 2007
Graduate Study: University of Michigan, M.S. Mechanical Engineering, 2007
Degree(s) Sought:  Ph.D.
Department: Industrial and Systems Engineering
Faculty Advisor: Mark Embrechts
Expected year of graduation: 2014

Describe your graduate research and its purpose/applications.

My thesis research is focused on reinforcement learning, which is a machine learning approach to solving sequential decision making problems. In essence, it’s a computational version of learning by trial-and-error. Applying this learning methodology to solve challenging problems is not always successful, thus, the learning methodology is not well understood. My work uses a structured approach of designed experiments to determine under what conditions learning is successful and unsuccessful.

Although this learning approach has been around for decades, the number of remarkable applications is limited and most applications use simplified or toy problems. Understanding how problem characteristics and learning parameters affect learning will allow us to better understand how reinforcement learning can be applied and how learning algorithms should be modified to solve increasingly challenging problems. Additionally, reinforcement learning is believed to be one method that the human brain uses to learn how to perform different tasks. Understanding the computational analog of this learning method may provide insights to how learning occurs in the brain.

What are your hobbies and interests?

  • Gymnastics
  • One-arm handstands
  • Hiking/backpacking
  • Cooking

What made you decide to attend Rensselaer?

I was attracted to the variety of research interests within my department. My background is in mechanical and biomechanical engineering, but when I was looking at graduate programs, my interests shifted to computational research. The Industrial and Systems Engineering department at RPI had a nice mix of research areas that I could evaluate before committing to a single area.

What are some benefits of being part of the Graduate Community at Rensselaer?

RPI is a school with faculty and students who are very dedicated to producing high quality work. Merely being a part of this environment motivates you to produce work of the same high quality.

What would you tell a prospective student about choosing Rensselaer?

RPI is made up of a very diverse technical community with many interest areas and renowned individuals. Consequently, it is more than likely that you’ll find someone with similar academic interests to yours. Both faculty and students are very focused on their work.  If you immerse yourself in this community and you work hard, you’ll be able to do great things.

What are your plans following graduation?

Following graduation I would like to continue my involvement in research, either through a post-doc appointment or with a national or industrial lab. Because I would like to combine my personal interests with my professional interests, I may also pursue something that utilizes my gymnastics background.


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Page updated: 11/4/13, 11:31 AM