Engaging experiences: meet Ultra Labs intern Gerry Donahue

September 13 2022

Gerard (Gerry) Donahue interned at Ultra Labs as a Machine Learning Intern, reporting to Daniel Gil this summer. Below, he shares an overview of the projects he supported, the skills he gained and the overall Ultra experience he got a taste of.

 

Can you provide an overview of the projects you worked on with Ultra Labs?

Out of all the internships I completed throughout my undergraduate studies at the University of New Hampshire, my Machine Learning Internship here with Ultra Labs has been the most relevant and engaging. One week prior to my start date, my manager, Daniel Gil, suggested that I fly down to Austin to join the Ultra Labs team on a two-day tour of Texas A&M University. I was ecstatic! I was able to tour top-notch research facilities and learn about amazing research that Texas A&M is conducting in artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomy, electronics, and much more.

After this visit I started working on a research project to support the development of the Battlespace Action Recommendation System (BARS), a key IRAD project at Ultra Labs. The purpose of BARS is to develop an artificial intelligence agent to provide decision support for operators and battlefield commanders via intelligent course-of-action recommendations.  I began working hard on developing an A.I. which can help to locate an unknown target in a space of interest; a research field commonly known as “Target Localization”.  An example of target localization is a Search and Rescue Missions, where an autonomous drone searches a forest region for a lost hiker.

Along with my colleague, Brendan Crowe, we developed a new approach for target localization, which has the potential to be applied to other missions. Subsequently I began focusing on gaining experimental simulation results to verify our ideas, while documenting my research in writing.

As I approach the beginning of my doctoral studies at Northeastern University, I feel much more prepared and experienced in the realm of research, execution, and collaboration.

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How has working with Ultra Labs impacted your skillset?

My time with Ultra Labs helped refine my skills for research and critical thinking. Working with partners at Texas A&M helped me understand the academic space from an industry lens. I was a part of countless theoretical and practical discussions around the technology being developed at Ultra Labs, which aided my ability to think deeply and produce higher quality ideas.

At Ultra Labs, I was also given access to some pretty impressive compute resources on Amazon Web Services GovCloud, which allowed me to train A.I to produce wildly interesting behavior. The experience tuning and engineering an intelligent model is invaluable going into my PhD, as I will now be better versed in practical machine learning techniques.

 

Was there anything that Ultra Labs offered that was different from other places you may have worked at?

Ultra Labs offered me an ideal balance between research freedom and mission-driven execution. Often with jobs in the industry, they tend to be based on hard deadlines and predefined project scopes. I found that defining my project focus at Ultra was a team decision, and my opinion and interests were considered valuable in that decision.

 

What was your experience like working with your team? 

My manager, Daniel Gil, was a great mentor to me. Dan has a PhD from the University of Wisconsin and has provided me with a great deal of advice and thoughts on my upcoming doctoral work at Northeastern. Alongside this support, he managed my workflow with purpose and respect. These managerial qualities helped my productivity immensely. My direct team, consisting of Tyler Black, Samantha Hay, Brendan Crowe, and Alex Behnke, is a collection of creative and skilled practitioners. The culture of this group was lively, enthusiastic, and practical. Meeting the team in Austin felt comfortable and I knew that I was accepted and appreciated. Sometimes I forgot that I was only an intern!

Thank you to Ultra Labs for an incredibly valuable internship and all of the hard-working individuals that enriched my experience.

 

"We loved having Gerry as part of the Ultra Labs’ team for the summer. He brought energy and curiosity to his work, and really dove right in to working on hard problems. It was rewarding to see him make such a significant impact in the short span of a summer internship.” - Daniel Gil, Ultra Labs Programme Manager

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