In early 2016, Parth Gargava (MS Information Systems ’18) was working as a software engineer at the Center for Development of Advanced Computing in his native India. A recent graduate of the Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, he was developing software for artificial intelligence projects, including a robotic wheelchair controlled by a patient simply thinking the words “backward” or “forward.” It was leading-edge work, but Gargava wanted more.

“I decided I wanted to challenge myself and earn a master’s degree at one of the world’s top engineering schools,” explains Gargava. “I had heard about the advanced research going on in Northeastern’s College of Engineering, particularly in topics like artificial intelligence and machine learning. I knew students there, and I had read research papers written by the faculty. It was obvious Northeastern was a global center of excellence in these topics.”

Gargava was also attracted by the opportunity to gain hands-on experience via Northeastern’s co-op program, which links students with job opportunities. “Most masters programs I looked at only offered three-month internships,” he says. “It takes a full month to settle into any position, so that really only represents two months of meaningful work. At Northeastern, I could work at a co-op for up to eight months — which would allow me to immerse myself in a real job while earning my degree.”

Gargava enrolled in Northeastern’s masters program in Information Systems in September 2016. Since July 2017, he has been working at Fidelity Investments as a software developer for the company’s virtual assistant, or “chat bot,” that responds to customer’s online questions. As part of this co-op, Gargava develops deep learning algorithms that help the bot intelligently answer questions and make investment suggestions.

“We currently have achieved a virtual assistant capability with a 97 percent rate of accuracy — which sounds impressive, but it’s not good enough,” notes Gargava. “Fidelity needs to achieve 99.9 percent accuracy to support its customer service goals. Helping to get there is my responsibility. The chat bot is currently supported by live customer service reps, but eventually will manage inquiries on its own.”

Gargava’s work at Fidelity has been complemented by relevant coursework at Northeastern, including classes in topics such as advanced data science, application development, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. “As soon as I started working at my co-op, I saw the relevance of everything I’d been learning in the classroom,” Gargava says. “I saw problems in the real world that Northeastern had already equipped me to address. That was very gratifying, and it allowed me to add value at Fidelity very quickly.”

Though Gargava won’t earn his degree until May 2018, he has already secured another job at Fidelity Investments when his current co-op ends. “I’ll be working on Fidelity’s cryptocurrency initiative, in which virtual money — like bitcoins — will replace traditional currency and credit cards, leading to immediate online transactions and a decentralized banking structure.”

“This is an emerging field that brings topics like cryptography and math together with computer science,” he continues. “My experience as a masters student in Information Systems at Northeastern has positioned me perfectly for this growing field. I’m very excited about the future — and I can honestly say that my decision to enroll at Northeastern’s College of Engineering has changed my life.”