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Siddharth Bajaj, InfoSci MPS

Student Name: Siddharth Bajaj

Affiliation: Department of Information Science, MPS Program

Hometown: Pune, India

Why did you choose Cornell?

I chose Cornell because it has an established set of faculty and is a highly regarded research institution. The faculty are the leaders in their respective fields, and there is a staggering variety of courses to choose from. Cornell has a vibrant innovative culture, and this is something I wanted to be a part of.

Why are doing an MPS and why InfoSci?

I am doing an MPS because it is a compact course geared specifically at preparing students for a professional career, and is focused in its mission. I chose InfoSci because it is interdisciplinary, comprehensive and a very rewarding program that lets you indulge in a wide variety of courses and research opportunities. It lets you strengthen those skills that are invaluable in a professional environment, while also expanding your current skill set and knowledge base.

Where and what did you do for your Undergrad?

I did my Bachelors in Computer Engineering at the University of Pune, India. While there, I worked in a team to develop a low cost interactive whiteboard. We developed the entire system from scratch, including an entirely new projector and tracking mechanism. The project aimed to aid e-learning and spread education to rural areas throughout the world.

What did you do after Undergrad (if applicable), where did you work?

I spent a year in India working with a start-up on developing low cost medical devices for deployment in rural areas. I worked on developing devices like a low cost digital stethoscope, a digital microscope and a digital vein detector. I also worked on developing a low cost blanket phototherapy unit for the treatment of neonatal jaundice.

If you’ve selected a research project to work on, can you describe your experience so far? What faculty supervisor/s or outside companies are you working with on the project?

I'm working on a project this semester with the MPS Director, Dr. Gilly Leshed and Dr. Shaomei Wu from Facebook as my advisors. We are working on aiding visually impaired users access social networks. The project involves studying visually impaired users' experiences, and then implementing a specific use-case that would extend existing accessibility technologies. Through interviews in person and over the phone we hope to identify what the needs of visually impaired persons are when accessing traditional social media websites. We feel creating a seamless experience for visually impaired individuals to access regular social networks would go a long way in providing them the same social benefits as everyone else. My experience so far has been very rewarding, and the advisors on the project are extremely helpful and provide valuable inputs and suggestions every step along the way.

What class have you taken or are you taking that you are excited about and why?

INFO 6130 – Health and Computation

This is a new course taught by Prof. Tanzeem Choudhury, and is all about creating mobile apps with a focus on healthcare. We are creating apps that will be deployed by Gannett Health Services to extend their services to students in the form of mobile applications. Getting hands-on experience in designing and implementing mobile apps from scratch is very exciting and I'm really looking forward to the course.

INFO 4240 – Designing Technology for Social Impact

This is also a new course, taught by Prof. Phoebe Sengers, and lies at the intersection of technology and liberal arts. It discusses how values can be built into technology, and how social impact can be something embedded into technology right from the design phase. It is a very exciting and fun class to be a part of, and it really gets you thinking about the significance of design in technology. The course activities are also very engaging and thought provoking.

What do you like about living in Ithaca?

Ithaca is a beautiful place and the people are really friendly. It is an extremely safe place to live, and crime is very rare. It has excellent bus connectivity, and as a student this is a huge plus point for me. Also, all Cornell students receive a free unlimited bus pass for their first year, which makes getting around town and exploring Ithaca a lot easier. There are some amazing hiking trails and the fall season in Ithaca is breathtaking. Also, the cost of living is relatively less in Ithaca compared to some of the larger cities.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I would like to work in the healthcare industry. I would like to use my interdisciplinary skills to develop healthcare technology that would bring down the cost of healthcare in developing and developed countries alike. I would like to improve the reach of healthcare and make sure more people around the world have access to cheaper healthcare.

What do you think incoming MPS students should know before they come?

The number of courses you can choose from is enormous. There are limitless possibilities in the kinds of courses you can choose, and create an interdisciplinary set of courses. Choosing courses that work for you is made a lot easier through meetings with your advisor. You are given a lot of opportunity to explore all types of courses by attending the first few days. Professors are very open about the course structure and grading scale and you should know very soon which courses you'd like to take.

What would you recommend about this program to potential MPS students?

The MPS course is tailored to suit the needs of each individual. The fact that you can customize this program is very useful. The MPS program lets you choose a variety of courses that you wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to experience. You can get a variety of valuable experiences by exploring a wide array of courses throughout your time here. It can be thoroughly interdisciplinary and lets you gain exposure in areas you might never have explored otherwise.