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Chico State

From Skepticism to Success: International Computer Science Graduate Excels in Program

Sourabh Kulkarni, wearing black slacks and a buttoned-up dress shirts, sits on the edge of a desk while posing for a photo.
Jason Halley / University Photographer

Sourabh Kulkarni had never set foot on the Chico State campus before his first day in graduate school. More than 8,100 miles away from home, he had doubts about whether he’d find friends on campus and do well in a project-based program.

“I was worried about what the culture would be like,” he said. “The educational system is also quite different in the US than in India. Here, it’s more practical-based. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up.”

Now that Kulkarni has completed his master’s in computer science, he is glad he took the chance on Chico State. The 26-year-old excelled in the program—and found an entire community. He became a top student, a computer science tutor, a research assistant for Professor Abbas Attarwala, developed an interest in machine learning and live coding, forged friendships, and even learned to cook.

“I have observed Sourabh’s outstanding performance in various roles, including as a student, tutor, research assistant, and grader,” Attarwala said. “He has excelled in all these capacities. Currently, Sourabh is collaborating with me on a research paper, and we aim to submit it this summer at a computer science conference.”

Kulkarni’s interest in computers started with playing video games as a boy. He began taking computer science-related courses in high school and went on to earn his bachelor’s in computer engineering from Savitribai Phule Pune University in India.

Since then, he has developed an interest in live coding in education and how it affects student success and understanding of topics. Kulkarni said the popularity of the practice rose during the pandemic and he’s exploring how this has influenced computer science education.

“I read a research paper in this area and developed an interest because I saw some of the professors at Chico State using this live coding approach and it was really helpful for me,” Kulkarni said. “I know that it must have been helpful for other students as well, which is why I decided to pursue my research in this area.”

During his time at the University, Kulkarni was part of a three-person team that won second place in an Association for Computing Machinery coding competition. He also collaborated with Attarwala on research studying the impact of AI on children. Both see this work as having the potential to influence the future development of AI and policymaking to keep children safe.

Kulkarni’s experience at Chico State has been enriched by faculty like Attarwala and Tyson Henry, who is the department chair and Kulkarni’s career advisor. They were exceptional mentors who provided career advice, research opportunities, encouragement, and inspiration, he said. He is also grateful for many aspects of the University, including the beauty of the campus, the Indian Student Association, where he found community, and the Career Center, which helped him with mock interviews and his resume.

“I have grown quite a lot in my professional and personal life because of Chico State,” he said.

Kulkarni is interested in pursuing a PhD one day, but for now, he plans to continue his research and become a software developer.