I am Nicholay Topin, and this site is about my time as a Computer Science undergraduate at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). My focus of study is Machine Learning, both Reinforcement Learning and Deep Learning. Circa Fall of 2017, I am a Ph.D. student in Carnegie Mellon's Machine Learning program.

Global Perspectives

I am a member of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County inaugural GCSP cohort. The Grand Challenge Scholar’s Program (GCSP) is centered around the National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE) Grand Challenges, 14 problems across a range of disciplines that will define the 21st century. Students in the program focus on a challenge and prepare themselves to tackle it through a number of GCSP seminars and related experiences. This website documents the activities I completed towards the GCSP requirements. More details can found on the official UMBC GCSP page.

My Challenge

I chose to focus on “Reverse-Engineering the Brain.” As an Artificial Intelligence (AI) researcher, I hope to bring intelligence to machines. However, humanity has yet to understand the source of intelligence in biological beings. Through focusing on this challenge, I seek to improve both machines and humans. By studying AI and natural intelligence side-by-side, I believe there will be far greater impacts on society and science as a whole. Through participation in the GCSP, I got to interact with like-minded individuals and have a unique, multidisciplinary experience. In addition, the program added structure to my existing activities, allowing me to focus on a useful application.


In addition to three GCSP-specific seminars, each GCSP member must complete five experiences related to the student’s topic. These experiences must be of sufficient magnitude (one equivalent to 6 credits, two equivalent to 3 credits each, and two equivalent to 1 credit each). Likewise, each must be of a different type (Entrepreneurship, Global Perspectives, Interdisciplinarity, Research, and Service Learning). Furthermore, each experience category is designed to fulfill specific learning objectives, so students reflect and document their experiences.

In this e-portfolio, I have recorded my experiences and how they relate to my challenge. Each experience is documented on a separate page, reachable from the main menu bar above and the links on the left.