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Earth Scientist & Bicycle Traveler |

Bicycling on opening day- pictures, itinerary, and planning tips

Picture by the author (like all other pictures).

Yosemite has always held a special place in my heart. From the mammoth granite peaks to the crystal clear alpine lakes, from the beautiful wildlife to the giant sequoia trees, from the starry nights to spectacular sunsets, each time I visit the park, it captivates me in a new way.

In the past, I have explored the park by vehicle and on foot. Although I love to bicycle, I had heard that the park was not well-suited for bicyclists because of the large amounts of (speedy) vehicular traffic and because most scenic roads lacked a shoulder. Naturally, I thought I…

History, geography, and cultures of Southern Utah explored on a bicycle

Image by author (like all other images in this story).

When we picture our planet Earth, we usually think about lush green forests, tall white mountains, vast blue oceans, or icy regions of the poles. But rarely do we think about high-altitude deserts. That might be because we tend to view deserts as largely unexplored, barren lands with barely any resources to sustain life. Or so we think.

The high-altitude desert ecosystem of southern Utah which is part of the Great Basin defies all of our expectations. Think deserts are dry? Flash-floods are possible at almost any time of year here! Think deserts are barren? The winter snowpack is usually…

Unless it is accessible, relatable, and actionable

Photo by ShonEjai on Pixabay

We have a problem. Researchers make an astonishing 2 million contributions annually, but the majority of these end up just as academic papers and collect dust without ever being used to create change in our society.

This is not just our problem, but broader society’s, too, since all of us lose if science continues to churn out studies without having a real impact. In no other case is this more evident than in climate science. Although global warming was discovered in the 1900s, it wasn’t until the 1970s that scientists engaged with the general public, which gave rise to the…

Graphical explanation of the squared Pearson correlation coefficient and coefficient of determination to help you spot statistical lies

Difference between the Pearson correlation coefficient and the coefficient of determination. Image by author.

Picture this- You are a stock analyst responsible for predicting Walmart’s stock price ahead of its quarterly earnings report. You are hard at work just when your data scientist walks in saying they discovered a little-known data stream providing daily Walmart parking lot occupancy that seems well correlated with Walmart’s historic revenues. You are understandably excited. You ask them to use the parking lot data alongside other standard metrics in a machine learning model to forecast Walmart’s stock price.

So far so good.

The data scientist returns in a few hours claiming that after careful validation of the model, its…

Satellites + AI = Never-seen-before Information

Maps display the amount of water in plants relative to dry biomass across the American West. Lower the number, drier the vegetation, greater the risk of wildfire, and vice-versa. Image by author.

Forest wildfire risk is increasing in the western United States. In the past five decades, large wildfire frequency and the area destroyed have risen by more than four and six times, respectively. The increased risk posed by wildfires has prompted scientists to try to assess wildfire risk to help inform whether to move people to safety before disastrous wildfires occur.

To overcome this challenge, I used vast amounts of data with deep learning to produce dynamic forest dryness maps of the western US for the first time ever. These maps may eventually lead to improved wildfire risk assessments.

Wildfire risk and the role of forest dryness

In wildfire…

A guide to become RA/TA with sample cover letters

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

College and grad school are incredibly expensive. In fact, cost remains the number one reason people delay or avoid school. While universities typically offer fellowships or scholarships to bright students, not everyone among us is as fortunate.

Assistantships, however, are accessible to everybody. Furthermore, research assistants (RA) and teaching assistants (TA) are typically paid on par with fellowship winners. So if you are an undergraduate or a graduate student looking to save money (even earn in some cases) assistantships present a real opportunity to do so.

In this article we will learn:

  1. Why be RA or TA?
  2. How to become…

Don’t make your audience squint

Use the right size for the right occasion. Photo by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash

Have you ever sat in a presentation and squinted at the slides struggling to read charts with tiny text? Or worse, encountered a blurry figure in a poster making it impossible to read the axes? Too often people tend to reproduce the same figure across different mediums like articles on website, presentation slides, journal articles (pdf documents), leading to unpleasant user experience. Let’s be better.

In this article, you will learn-

  1. Why to modify figures for each medium
  2. How to modify them easily with a single line of code

The examples I share are written in python but I provide…

Perhaps Not

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

With many universities in USA set to move to a partial or fully-online curriculum while other universities are yet to decide, prospective masters students are faced with an urgent dilemma — accept admits, defer them if their universities allow, or reject them and apply again next year. What should you do? Irrespective of your potential degree (M.S., M.B.A., etc.), you are better off deferring your admit or rejecting it. Why? Read on.

Diminished classroom experience

My latest quarter at Stanford University was held completely online, giving me a glimpse of what the Fall quarter might look like. …

Photo by Robert Lederer on Unsplash

You sacrificed everyday, but never got thanked until today.

If only I realized sooner you sacrificed so much for me, woman,
I would’ve thanked you every single day, superwoman.

When I was 9, you got up early to heat the milk up.
So I could wake up to you handing me a hot cup.

Before exams, you quizzed me in the wee hours of morning,
Even if most of the material was beyond your understanding.

My first test was to write in Tamil and I was terrified,
But you learned it for me to make it simplified.

When you went to Andheri you brought food from McDonalds,
Yet while…

Learn to do literature review efficiently and consistently

Keeping up with academic literature is like trying to drink water from a fire hydrant — it seems impossible to keep up! (credits to Alex Konings). Artwork from,

Academic publishing is exploding. More than 2.5 million papers are published every year and the fact that the pace of publishing is climbing 8% every year isn’t helping. With so much to read out there, it is easy to feel like we’re barely keeping our heads above the water.

Unfortunately, keeping up with literature is one of those things — like walking — that isn’t really taught to us. We are expected to learn it by ourselves. However, over the past few years, I have realized that even though we have our own styles of finding and reading papers, there…

Krishna Rao

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