Meet ML@GT: Nathan Hatch, a Machine Learning Researcher Who Doesn’t Mind a Little Mud on His Hands

The Machine Learning Center at Georgia Tech (ML@GT) is home to many talented students from across campus, representing all six of Georgia Tech’s colleges and the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI).

These students have diverse backgrounds and a wide variety of interests both inside and outside of the classroom. Today, we’d like you to meet Nathan Hatch, a former software engineer turned machine learning Ph.D. student.

Hometown: Fort Collins, CO

Advisor: Byron Boots, School of Interactive Computing assistant professor

Current Georgia Tech degree program: Ph.D. in Machine Learning

Other degrees earned: B.S. Mathematics and Computer Science from University of Chicago

Tell us about your research:

I'm interested in developing and analyzing machine learning algorithms for reinforcement learning (RL) problems. RL is about performing an action that maximizes the reward in a particular situation. The challenge with RL is that decisions made by the computing agent will affect the environment around it, which may change the results of future decisions.

For example, with human education, it is often easier to learn from teacher demonstrations ("imitation learning") and simplified learning environments ("curriculum learning"). I would like to investigate the mathematical theory behind these strategies and use this theory to develop new algorithms for real-world RL problems like autonomous driving.

Favorite Conference and why:

ACH Special Interest Group on Harry Questionable Bovik (SIGBOVIK). Even academics like to have some fun every now and then!

Favorite place to hang out on campus or in Atlanta and why:

When I’m not working on my research you can usually find me at the Campus Recreation Center (CRC), especially at the climbing wall or in the pool.

Tell us about some of your hobbies:

I enjoy playing the viola, rock climbing, and playing the board game Go.

Favorite Georgia Tech experience:

My favorite Tech experience so far was when I went on a caving trip with Outdoor Recreation. We went to Howard's Waterfall Cave in northwest Georgia. It was memorable because, well, caving is an inherently memorable experience — and of course the ORGT trip leaders were great! This visit involved squeezing down through a tiny passageway called "the keyhole", sloshing through a mud puddle half a meter deep, and crawling 200 meters under a 30-cm-high ceiling.

Who is someone that inspires you and why?

Hank and John Green, a.k.a. the Vlogbrothers. I hope I'm as thoughtful and as funny as they are when I grow up.

If you were in the circus, what would your act be and why?

I actually took a flying trapeze class once!

What is your proudest accomplishment?

I’d have to say getting admitted to a Ph.D. program at Georgia Tech is my proudest accomplishment to date.

What’s the best app on your phone?

I’m trying to learn Mandarin Chinese. HelloChinese is the best free app I've found for that.

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  • Nathan Hatch is a second-year machine learning Ph.D. student from Fort Collins, Colorado.

For More Information Contact

Allie McFadden

Communications Officer