Q&A with faculty mentor Nakul Gopalan

Posted on: October 26, 2023

Nakul Gopalan is an assistant professor of computer science and engineering. His research interests lie in the intersection of language and robot learning, particularly how to train robots through natural language to improve their usability in homes and offices. Gopalan became a MORE faculty mentor in the fall of 2023.

Nakul Gopalan works with a robotic arm in his lab.

What is your favorite part about seeing your students conduct research?

Students are very inquisitive, more so than seasoned researchers. Given an interesting problem you can get them to ask hard questions and find smart solutions to these research problems.   

How has your MORE student had an effect on your research? Have they come up with any research surprises or proposed new directions for your lab?

We have learned that fundamental problems in statistics such as change-point detection are hard and we have to develop novel deep learning techniques to have unsupervised or sample efficient methods to solve these problems. This is challenging given the high sample complexity of deep learning based methods that are commonly used today.  

What have you gained from being a mentor? How has the experience been rewarding for you?

It has taught me to work with more undergraduate researchers and formulating problems with them is a little freeing because they bring so much enthusiasm into what they do. 

What advice would you give to students who might be interested in participating in FURI or MORE?

Find an area that interests you and look for collaborations with research mentors on campus. This process has to be organic and you have to be interested in the research idea outside of the incentives of FURI or MORE. 

Why should other faculty members become FURI and MORE mentors?

FURI and MORE allow us to create student researchers directly at ASU. These researchers can then continue their higher education at ASU with their mentors or go outside and make the school proud. In either case, it is beneficial to the research produced inside the U.S. The program helps ASU create and retain outstanding research talent.  

I am so grateful to my MORE mentor, Dr. Nakul Gopalan, for his outstanding support for the last three semesters. He has been a constant source of encouragement and guidance, both inside and outside of the research lab.

Dr. Gopalan has helped me to develop my research skills, navigate challenges and achieve my goals. He has also been a supportive and encouraging role model. He has shared his own experiences and insights with me, and he has helped me to develop my confidence and self-belief.

One of the most valuable things that Dr. Gopalan has taught me is how to conduct research in a streamlined and efficient way. He has shown me how to identify and focus on the most important aspects of my research, and how to plan and execute my research projects in a way that is both effective and efficient.

Dr. Gopalan has also helped me outside of the research lab. He has made a point of meeting with me regularly to check up on my emotional health and well-being. He has also offered me advice and support on a variety of personal and professional matters.

I am lucky to have Dr. Gopalan as a mentor. He is a true expert in his field, and he is dedicated to helping his mentees succeed. I am confident that I am a better student and researcher because of his mentorship.

In particular, I am grateful for Dr. Gopalan’s ability to motivate me to do research even when I am feeling low on motivation. He has a knack for helping me to see the bigger picture and to focus on the importance of my research. He also knows how to celebrate my successes, which helps me to stay motivated and engaged in my work.

Adarsh HiremathComputer science MORE student