2024 WNCG Student Leadership Award

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May 16, 2024
SLA 2024

With the close of the 2023-2024 academic year, Wireless Networking and Communications Group faculty and staff had the privilege of awarding two Student Leadership Awards. This annual honor is granted to graduate students who exemplify the integrity, initiative, and stewardship that encapsulate WNCG’s mission of academic excellence.

This year’s winners were Advait Parulekar and Georgios Smyrnis.

Smyrnis joined Dr. Alex Dimakis’s lab as a Ph.D. student in the Chandra Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin in August of 2020, after earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the National Technical University of Athens in Greece. His research interests lie in contrastive learning and self-supervision, with applications on large scale vision-language models. He is also working on creating datasets required for training models at scale. Smyrnis will be interning this summer at Toyota Research Institute in Palo Alto, California.

Dr. Sujay Sanghavi, who works closely with Smyrnis in the ML Lab, said “In addition to his great work in research and as a TA, George has been instrumental in building a student community here in WNCG. He is a mentor to many junior students – especially those getting started on training large-scale models. He has a great sense of ownership, and can always be depended on for reading groups [and] events.”

Advait Parulekar joined WNCG as a Ph.D. student advised by Dr. Sanjay Shakkottai in the spring of 2020 after graduation from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. At UT Austin, his research is focused on theory of computation, online learning, methods in applied mathematics (functional analysis), stochastic geometry and approximation, advanced probability, and more. 

Parulekar has led the ML Tea Meetup, an interdisciplinary research social event with occasional guest speakers, for the last two years. Shakkottai said “Advait has been instrumental in organizing and running the “ML Tea Meetup.” He has built a community of about 50 students and faculty, [and] has brought various interdisciplinary groups together from ECE, CS, and Statistics.”

Parulekar and Smyrnis were presented their awards by WNCG and 6G@UT Directors Jeff Andrews and Todd Humphreys at the annual WNCG Spring Social at the end of the spring semester.

SLA 2024

Asked about their experience in WNCG and what advise they would give incoming graduate students, our winners responded:


I feel that the close relationships between groups within WNCG has helped me advance collaborations and share research outside the strict confines of my advisor's group. I feel that this was a great opportunity for me to improve my ability to collaborate in larger groups, as well as be open to research opportunities that may arise. I would advise incoming WNCG students to make use of this environment to form connections with their peers. I feel that good connections with the rest of the students greatly enhances the PhD experience.”


“Various collaborations have introduced me to a wide range of topics that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise, and working with some of the other students has been fun and rewarding. I think it is useful to be willing to adapt to trends in the community, especially in ML where the focus changes so quickly.”

Congratulations to the 2024 Student Leadership Award winners!


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