Meet Stefan Faulkner

Graduate Research Assistant/Graduate Research Intern, AI4OPT/Kinaxis

April 04, 2023 | By GTPE Communications
Stefan Faulkner headshot over a gold background showing graphs and data sets

Stefan Faulkner was a freshly minted graduate of the University of the West Indies, about to start work as an entry-level software developer analyst at the National Commercial Bank Jamaica. Eager to embark on his first professional undertaking, he also wanted to pursue further education, and he didn’t want to wait.

A math wiz since childhood, Faulkner had discovered an affinity for academia early on, graduating from college in three years with a double major in mathematics and computer science. During his undergraduate tenure, a dream was born: to someday obtain a Ph.D.

However, he also knew he needed to develop skills and gain experience in the workforce. So, Faulkner did what seemed natural to him and started his first job and a master's program simultaneously. He researched universities around the world, ultimately choosing Georgia Tech’s Online Master of Science in Analytics program.

“One of the main components that attracted me to the OMS Analytics program was that it was interdisciplinary, so I could take courses from Georgia Tech’s nationally-ranked colleges that included engineering, computing, and business. This was important to me because I wanted to see the whole data science landscape and how it worked across multiple industries.”

Additionally, Faulkner was impressed by Georgia Tech’s extensive industry and academic partnerships. “I saw the OMS Analytics program as a stepping stone towards further graduate studies and hopefully a senior role in data science in first-world countries such as the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. Georgia Tech’s reputation is global, so I knew that no matter where I wanted to go after I earned my master’s, everyone would recognize the strength of Georgia Tech’s name.”

Program cost was also a major consideration. “The budget-friendly price tag was very important to me since I was living in Jamaica at the time, which is a country with a weaker currency.”

The online format of the program sealed the deal. “To be able to complete my master’s online from Georgia Tech while living in another country, it could not get any better than that.”

The effect was almost immediate — within six months of starting the program, Faulkner was promoted at work. “The direct impact of what I learned and could immediately apply to my job while still a student in the program was phenomenal,” he recalled. “The courses quickly advanced my knowledge and skill set, which my employer recognized almost immediately. They were very impressed with my growth and promoted me from data analyst to data scientist while I was still a student in the program. What I was learning in my classes helped me transition to a senior role within the industry.

And then came the second — and unexpected - impact of the program. While studying analytics, Faulkner found a whole new area that intrigued him and shifted his career path in a different direction. “I became fascinated with AI and machine learning and developed a profound desire to deepen my understanding of them through advanced studies,” he said.

And so, after earning his OMS Analytics degree, Faulkner moved to the U.S. and began his Ph.D. studies in machine learning at Georgia Tech. Continuing his approach of working while enrolled in advanced degree programs, he is a graduate research assistant at AI4OPT (AI for Advances in Optimization) and a graduate research intern at Kinaxis.

Explaining the types of research he is involved in, Faulkner shared, “My current research involves machine learning and operations, with a focus on applications in supply chain, logistics, and energy systems.”

He added, "I am working on establishing the theoretical and computational foundations of end-to-end learning and optimization. We aim to demonstrate the societal benefits of this approach through practical use cases in areas such as energy systems, supply chains, and circuit design in collaboration with our industry partners."

Faulkner continued, "End-to-end learning also addresses prediction and optimization challenges simultaneously, as opposed to the traditional predict-then-optimize paradigm. One of our key objectives is to create ‘optimization proxies’ that utilize trained machine learning models to imitate the optimization process, resulting in significant time savings compared to traditional methods. Additionally, we are exploring innovative methodologies such as ‘learning to optimize,’ which involves replacing components of an optimization algorithm with trained ML models.”

After earning his Ph.D., Faulkner hopes to work as an applied or research scientist in the corporate sector. “I am eager to continue my work at the intersection of machine learning, optimization, and data science, using these powerful tools to tackle real-world problems in the supply chain and energy systems industries,” he said. “Additionally, I am interested in exploring the potential applications of these techniques in the healthcare, finance, and gaming sectors."

Faulkner also wants to help those coming up behind him in the field. “I am deeply passionate about teaching and sharing my knowledge and experiences, so I hope to find opportunities to serve as an adjunct lecturer or professor at a university, where I can inspire and guide the next generation of aspiring researchers and data scientists.”

Credits

Writer: Laurel-Ann Dooley

Editor: Teresa Daniel


Editor’s Note

About AI4OPT:

The AI Institute for Advances in Optimization (AI4OPT) is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and aims at delivering a paradigm shift in automated decision-making at massive scales by fusing AI and Mathematical Optimization to achieve breakthroughs that neither field can achieve independently. The Institute is driven by societal challenges in energy, logistics and supply chains, resilience and sustainability, and circuit design and control.

The Institute delivers an innovative longitudinal education and workforce development program with an initial focus on historically black high schools and colleges in Georgia, as well as Hispanic-serving high schools and colleges in California. The Institute is also developing internship programs with national laboratories and industrial partners, and is building a strong, welcoming, and inclusive community where social mobility opportunities and the societal impact of AI technologies will be highlighted.

Georgia Tech is the lead organization for the AI4OPT initiative, in partnership with other higher ed institutions including UC Berkley, UC California San Diego, Clark Atlanta, University of Southern California, and the University of Texas Arlington.

Industrial partners include Best Buy, Google, Intel, ISO New England, Keysight, Kinaxis, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Ryder, Sandia National Laboratories, Southern Company, and educational partner, HerWILL.

For more information, please visit:

Georgia Tech AI4OPT.

https://www.ai4opt.org/?check_logged_in=1

Georgia Tech Online Master of Science program.

https://pe.gatech.edu/degrees/analytics