Grady Thompson

Analysis of stochastic directed acyclic graphs
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

When I was ten years old, my class was asked to write down our dream career and I wrote down Engineer. By the time I was 12 years old, I knew I wanted to go into graduate school after completing an Engineering degree. Throughout my whole life I have enjoyed solving the most complex and difficult math and computation problems I could get my hands on. A Computer Engineering degree provided me the opportunity to delve into advanced math and I realized early in my degree that I wanted to pursue a graduate degree in theoretical computer science research. I knew at 10 and 12 years old that I would pursue my passion for advanced education, and graduate school is a fulfillment of a childhood dream.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I went through the University Transition Program, which is an academically accelerated high school, where students go from grade 7 directly into grade 11. UBC offers support for the program that includes special admissions process for the students. This led me to entering UBC for my undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering at age 15. During my undergraduate degree I was fortunate in being able to TA for my current supervisor Sathish Gopalakrishnan. Sathish selected me as one of his graduate students and is mentoring me as I work on my Master of Applied Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

When I was deciding on what program I wanted to do for my undergraduate degree I looked for which one had the most computer science and math courses. I decided to pursue Computer Engineering and take math and computer science for as many electives as I could. Graduate school in computer engineering offers the same benefit of being math and computer science focused, which naturally drew me to it.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

For me the best surprise I had at UBC was the turf field in the middle of campus by the Nest. Whenever I am stressed or mentally drained from homework, I can go out and play football/soccer on the field. I love football freestyling, so it makes me feel better the whole rest of the day each time I get to go out. It is a relatively small thing on campus, but it made my time on campus more enjoyable and I’ve met a lot of friends playing there.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

I enjoy the total exploration of a problem where I follow each idea as far as I can looking for methods to prove or disprove it. I also really appreciate the opportunities I have to engage with interesting and curious people who are researching complex problems.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

I took an unusual route academically with accelerated high school and entrance into UBC at a young age. I found that learning time management skills to keep my workload organized was one of the best things I did for myself early on. This has been invaluable throughout my academics.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I like to spend my free time doing physical activities such as soccer, skiing and going to the gym and to relax I am an avid reader.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Consistent steady effort towards research is the most effective way I have found for working through difficult problems. Setting small manageable goals for each day and week helped me work towards the result for research problems. The problem can take months to work through, so a little each day adds up to a lot. One strategy I have for this is setting goals I know I can easily finish in a day. Often times it will inspire me and I will work on far more than that bite-sized goal.

Outside of your academic work, what are the ways that you engage with your local or global community? Are there projects in particular that you are proud of?

For 5 years I volunteered with the UBC Chapter of Engineers Without Borders where I participated in a number of projects including creating an aquaponics system to promote sustainable farming. I am part of the Computer Systems Reading Group where we review published papers each week and discuss the merits of the topic covered. Last year I was the group coordinator where I selected the papers each week as well as the proponent/opponents and facilitated discussion.


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