Meet Dr Harshad Khadilkar

Aditi Jain || 06 Jun 2022

As children, we all loved the sight of a flying airplane in the sky. Harshad was no different in this case except that his love for airplanes didn’t stay just in his heart but percolated to his career as well. An aerospace engineer by education and an AI researcher by profession, Dr. Harshad Khadilkar is currently a Senior Scientist at TCS Research where he is applying reinforcement learning approach to optimize operations. 

Harshad was born to an IT Professional father and a teacher mom in the city of dreams- Mumbai. While both his parents had professions related to sciences, he never felt any pressure to study sciences from his parent’s side and it was only his excitement about the science that led him to take that career path. Harshad was always fascinated with Airplanes but never dreamt of flying the machine and was instead more interested to know how these flying objects are operated. This is the reason he decided to pursue B.Tech in Aerospace Engineering at IIT Bombay for a bachelor’s degree. During his engineering, he got interested in the control theory part of aerospace engineering and decided to pursue it further via a PhD. Once done with his Bachelor’s, he applied to various universities that had PhD programs in Aerospace research and got selected for the PhD program at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US. Being in a new land was quite a learning experience for Harshad and he was excited to see people pursuing various social causes and their passion for entrepreneurship apart from academics at MIT. His PhD also turned out to be quite successful as he was able to demonstrate that the algorithms developed by him were able to optimize the fuel consumption at the Boston Logan International Airport.

Though he was interested in joining academia after his PhD, the academic overheads made him shift his career trajectory and join the industry instead. Presently, he heads a research group at TCS where he is working to improve the efficiency of industrial systems. His research team is applying reinforcement learning techniques to enable product inventory to move efficiently through the supply chain by making a distributed decision. The same technique is also being used to pack products efficiently in a container by placing them in a specific orientation and fashion. 

Harshad is also a Visiting Associate Professor at IIT Bombay and an Associate Researcher at RBCDSAI which has reconnected him to the academic world. He believes that RBCDSAI is one the most well-known and well-staffed location of AI and DS research in India and is an important component of the Indian AI ecosystem and broader technology space. On being asked about the future of AI, he envisages that the future will be about human supervised AI systems which will be more accurate and credible to be accepted and applied in the real world.

A firm believer in good work-life balance, Harshad feels that a person should not remain stuck in any position for long if it is not giving him/her joy and advises young AI researchers to stick to the principles of science without worrying about outcomes,  to not take pressure to publish in A* conferences or high impact factor journals and disconnect the happiness they derive from their research work to that from the publishing of their research work.