vikram kashyap

home

projects

blog

about

About Me (contd.)

Education

Interests

  • Physics & Astronomy
  • Running
  • Bikes
  • Collecting CDs
  • Electronics
  • Open-Source Software
  • Mathematics
  • Chemistry

Skills/Experience

Background

I grew up (and currently live) in Beaverton Oregon, part of the Greater Portland Area. In many ways I am child of this young corner of the world. The area around Beaverton and Hillsboro is sometimes known as the "Silicon Forest" for the plethora of tech companies in Washington County. Growing up with my parents — both computer engineers — discussing new technologies around the dinner table gave me an early familiarity with computers. When in the summer after 7th grade my mother gave small computer board she'd gotten at work to me to play around with, I was immediately sucked in. Computers are not only an interest of mine, they also represent my heritage, a culture that has been passed down to me. That summer I dug through my father's old books on Unix systems and taught myself how to use that little board. Typing commands into the prompt of the black-and-white command line, I felt a connection to the half-century of programmers, including my parents, who had done the same.

Command Prompt
The classic blinking command prompt. It beckons, asking "What will you do today?"

As I went on to high school I continued pursuing computer science. Among other activities I spent summers 2017 and 2018 developing skills in the North West Advanced Programming Workshop (NWAPW) and High School Autonomous Vehicle Project (AVP-HS) programs. Fall 2018 I even got to travel to Brussels, Belgium with part of the AVP-HS team to present at the AutoSens autonomous car sensors conference where we won their Inspiration Award.

Starting sophomore year in highschool however, I began to take interest in engineering beyond computers. I participated from late winter 2016 to late spring 2018 as a student in Teenflight, an amazing program at the Hillsboro Airport where mostly-retired aviation professionals teach high schoolers to build actual airplanes. One of my favorite parts of Teenflight was simply listening to the old-timers tell stories and soaking up their wisdom. While I had long possessed a latent interest in mechanical engineering — ever since I was a kid I have had the habit of taking apart anything I can get my hands on, from wind-up toys to home appliances — but Teenflight sparked in me the realization that with tools, knowledge, and hard work I could make something that exists in real life, not just virtually. Flying one day in Summer 2018 in the airplane that my team built was one of the proudest moments of my life so far.

The skills and confidence that I learned in Teenflight also helped me shoot for another dream, becoming a motorcyclist. In spring of 2018 I started by building a motorized bicycle. Later in the year I finally earned my driver's license and my motorcycle endorsement, and by fall I bought an used '96 Yamaha XV250, which I have been maintaining and putting miles on since.

At the same time as my interests shifted from solely computer science to engineering as a whole, I also began to take more of an interest in science. Over time, I began to realize that what I truly enjoy about working with computers or airplanes or motorcycles isn't just what I can do with them but also understanding the principles on which they function. I like to think of the world in terms of basic principles (or axioms) and complex systems. For example, every complex task that a computer can do — displaying this webpage, for example — is actually a clever application of the basic logical operations programmed into it. Natural science is just the reverse: instead of building a complex system from building blocks like engineers, scientists study the complex system in which we live and deduce the building blocks that the world is made from. My passion specifically for physics stems from the fact that physics is the most ambitious science, attempting to discover the fundamental principles that define all of reality.

That is why I am now pursuing degrees in Physics and Astronomy with the aim of a career in research. My shift in focus did not diminish my interest in technology though. If anything, it bolstered it. Technological skills are extremely useful in life and specifically in modern science where more and more work is being done on computers. Currently I am engaged in undergraduate research in the Seidler Lab at the University of Washington applying machine learning to classifying x-ray spectra. I also have kept up with some of the engineering-focused programs in which I participated in high school. 2018 and 2019 I continued as a student mentor helping the next batch of kids in Teenflight. Summer 2020 I wrote tutorials to assist NWAPW in shifting to an online-only format due to COVID-19. Science and technology can seem like cold, impersonal fields from the outside, but they are built upon communities of passionate, fun-loving people. I have studied under and worked with some amazing people and I'm always proud to come back and make my own contributions. I am pursuing a career in physics research to make a mark on the field and to build a future with more knowledge and opportunity.