Raj Rao Nadakuditi honored with Master’s Mentoring Award

Prof. Nadakuditi received this award from the Rackham Graduate School in recognition of his many contributions to the education of students at the master’s level.
Raj Nadakuditi

Prof. Raj Rao Nadakuditi was recognized with the U-M Rackham Master’s Mentoring Award for his unparalleled dedication to the master’s student population in ECE. 

Nadakuditi’s specialty is in the area of AI and data science, fields that have transformed modern society. To help students learn how to think computationally, he co-developed, with a former student Travis DePrato, a cloud-based interactive textbook platform that enables instructors to build their materials into video game-like journeys that unfold as the learner progresses. 

The computational textbook platform, called Pathbird, was developed at the same time as his new graduate level course, Computational Machine Learning and Data Science. Despite large enrollments in the course, as high as 250 students, his flipped classroom teaching style allowed him to give individualized attention to students. Students loved the course not only because of what they learned, but how they learned it. 

“It was a journey where you had to teach yourself, which is what I loved,” said one student.

Raj created this textbook to serve the needs of the students, but his devotion to the well-being of his students, especially master’s students, goes much further. He is known for offering extended office hours, and to discuss career paths and more with his students. 

When students go on into industry, he keeps in touch with many of them and is there to offer advice when asked, or simply listen. And he is passionate about preparing them for their future careers. For example, he has taken the time to review student CVs, and he incorporated interview and public speaking practice sessions into his classes.

Raj has worked tirelessly to find ways to acclimate new master’s students to their temporary home at Michigan, from planning events to facilitating social media groups. He is a special advocate for master’s students as he knows they are here for a short period of time and don’t have the same access to research advisors with ready-made research groups as doctoral students. 

When asked what receiving this award means, Nadakuditi stated, 

Our master’s students are very motivated, and it’s really enjoyable to work with them as a coach during their time at U-M. It’s amazing to see them create a plan for their courses, internships, and projects by thinking about their dream career after U-M and connecting that with the skills they want to learn or improve. 

One of the most exciting parts of mentoring is watching them put their plan into action and witnessing how their newly acquired or improved skills not only help them reach their original goal but also open up new opportunities they might not have thought of when they started their learning journey.

He can often be heard discussing ways to improve the lives of ECE’s master’s students, and he has previously received the College of Engineering Jon R. and Beverly S. Holt Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Prof. Nadakuditi’s own research is at the interface of statistical signal processing and random matrix theory with applications such as sonar, radar, wireless communications and machine learning. He has received a Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He is a recipient of the Ernest and Bettine Kuh Distinguished Faculty Award for his outstanding contributions in the area of computational data science and machine learning.