Display of determination

Unswerving resolve on long road to electrical engineering doctoral degree exemplifies student's spirit of perseverance


Kristen Jaskie does research to advance machine learning and deep learning

Electrical engineering doctoral graduate Kristen Jaskie does research to advance machine learning and deep learning applications with the potential to benefit medical, scientific and commercial pursuits.

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Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

It’s not easy to gain deep expertise in the more complex areas of engineering and technology, and it’s even more difficult in fields that are rapidly evolving and birthing new questions and mysteries.

But Kristen Jaskie says she’s a perfect fit for the challenges posed by the advanced studies and research she has been involved in for seven years.

“I am by nature very stubborn,” Jaskie says, which has served her well in both higher education pursuits and her personal life.

She is currently a postdoctoral research scholar and adjunct professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, one of the seven Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Her primary research focus is on novel applications of machine learning, which is interconnected with the broader field of artificial intelligence.

Jaskie uses machine learning and deep learning algorithms to solve complex problems with large amounts of missing data. Her work focuses on semi-supervised learning and the positive and unlabeled learning problem. Algorithms like these can be used in medicine and other scientific and commercial applications.

She is the author of some of first research papers reporting on advances in these emerging areas, and a book she has written, “Positive Unlabeled Learning,” has recently been published.

The publications stem from much of her doctoral studies at ASU focusing on signal processing and machine learning. Her doctoral dissertation is titled “Positive Unlabeled Learning – Optimization and Evaluation.”

Her achievements have now earned Jaskie the Palais Outstanding Doctoral Student Award, which is bestowed on graduating electrical engineering doctoral students who exemplify excellence in both research and academics. To qualify, a candidate must maintain at least a 3.75 grade-point average and have at least one publication in a journal or at a conference.

The award was established in 2003 through the generosity of ASU Emeritus Professor Joseph Palais and his wife, Sandra Palais.

After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science with a concentration in machine learning, Jaskie worked as a machine learning research scientist and then became the owner and senior scientist of a data analytics consulting business. She also worked with the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego, performing systems and machine learning research.

From 2011 to 2018, Jaskie was a computer science faculty member at Glendale Community College near Phoenix and served as the department chair in her last two years there before returning to ASU to pursue a doctoral degree.

“Kristen was one of our very best graduate students,” says Fulton Schools Professor Andreas Spanias, director of the Sensor, Signal and Information Processing Center, or SenSIP, an industry consortium. “She contributed in an exemplary manner through her doctoral research, teaching, mentoring students in SenSIP’s Research Experience for Undergraduates and International Research Experience for Students programs, and our National Science Foundation workforce development program.”

Today, in addition to her postdoctoral researcher duties, Jaskie is leading the machine learning research operations of a small company in the defense industry.

“I love both teaching and research,” she says, so becoming a research professor and then a full professor are among her plans for the future.

Jaskie faced some challenges during the years she has been progressing through her advanced studies.

“I was doing PhD studies full-time and supporting myself and my family while my husband was also in school. It was a difficult time. But I can be very stubborn,” Jaskie says. “I was determined to get the degree. So, I stayed focused and I got it done.”

Today, she says she is “most proud of persevering in following my dreams and achieving my academic goals while also being a good, present and caring mother and wife to my family.”

She recalls her son spending a good part of his early years with her while she studied, and she notes that her intense interest in her work has influenced him.

“He is 6 years old now,” Jaskie says, “and he tells people he wants to be a scientist or an engineer. He’s not sure yet about which one.”

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