UMass Boston

PhD Student Jacob Adamczyk Receives IMPACT Award from the American Physical Society

04/22/2024| Sandra Mason

The award recognizes exceptional graduate students whose work impacts the field of data science.

Jacob Adamczyk at white board
Jacob Adamczyk, PhD candidate in the Physics Department, teaching about the attention mechanism in transformer models.

At the 2024 annual meeting of the American Physical Society (APS), Physics PhD student Jacob Adamczyk was presented with an IMPACT award by the APS Topical Group on Data Science (GDS).

The esteemed national award is given each year to only a handful of graduate students based on their impact on data science and their potential for continued success in the field. 

“This award is a recognition of the amazing accomplishments Jacob has already made as he progresses in his PhD research. He is effectively creating a new field which can be termed ‘physics-informed reinforcement learning’ and he has published several papers related to this topic in the leading journals in both physics and computer science,” said Adamczyk’s advisor, Professor of Physics and Department Chair Rahul Kulkarni.  

Adamczyk's current research focus is on reinforcement learning, an exciting area of machine learning used to solve sequential decision-making problems.

"I work at the intersection between theory and algorithms, where our group uses insights from physics to develop novel approaches to solve reinforcement learning problems,” said Adamczyk.

Adamczyk’s research is closely tied to his teaching efforts. This semester, he developed and is teaching an informal course on deep learning. He created the class to make the revolutionary field of deep learning more accessible to a wider audience. In the class, he covers a broad range of deep learning topics (backpropagation, gradient descent, MLPs, CNNs, ResNets, RNNs, Transformers, Reinforcement Learning), and includes discussion of state-of-the-art models and applications. The engaging course has received rave reviews from the physics, computer science, chemistry, and mathematics majors in the class. 

Before joining UMass Boston, Adamczyk earned Honors BS degrees in physics and mathematics at Cleveland State University. He contemplated whether to join industry or academia when he graduated college.  

After meeting Kulkarni and other faculty from UMass Boston’s Physics Department, Adamczyk knew he wanted to pursue a PhD at UMass Boston. He explained that “the physics department’s interests aligned well with my own: biophysics, quantum computing, and machine learning. In fact, I was able to learn about machine learning from conversations with Professor Kulkarni before I was even a UMass Boston student.” 

“Jacob’s contributions to the field and to the UMass Boston community are quite remarkable. We are fortunate to have him as a graduate student in our physics department,” said Kulkarni.