Ajay Vanamali, Graduate Student in Electrical Engineering

Which program/department are you in?

Electrical Engineering.

What is your primary area of research?


Which country (or countries) do you come from?


How long have you been in the U.S.?

Just over 2 months

Tell us about how your past experiences led you to Columbia.

There are multiple reasons that led me to Columbia. Firstly, a dream to pursue masters which was instilled into our minds on the first day of our Undergraduate studies. I still remember the day we were handed over a GRE Barron’s Guide. Most of us were still wondering about the purpose of that book back then in 2011. My undergrad college gave me enough exposure and resources to pursue research in various fields like VLSI, Cloud computing, etc. in the form of summer training and research assistantship roles.

I got placed in a VLSI firm through campus placement and thus my journey in the semiconductor industry began right after my college. The journey has been good throughout. Having spent most of my time in the RTL design and integration, with some instances where I tried my luck in the post silicon validation and spent considerable amount of time in the pre silicon verification as well. Having spent quite some time in the industry, there was a bit of regret of an unaccomplished dream.

I would be lying if I say Covid didn’t play a role in making me take this decision. Covid brought WFH culture and then work started not to seem like work anymore. With the right combination of various factors of personal life and professional career, there arrived a time when I decided to quit my job and pursue my masters degree. With having quite a decent experience, I aimed to do it only from one of the best universities in the world. Columbia was my top choice to pursue a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering.

Is there anything you’d like to share about your research or projects?

While working at CoreEL Technologies designing the solutions using FPGA based SoC boards for implementation into the next generation Electronic Warfare equipment, I learned a lot on how the overall system works (after integrating various SoC Boards designed by different manufacturers). There, I was working closely with the customers, understanding their requirements and figuring out the corner cases where the design might deviate from the expected behavior, which enhanced my ability to think from the system’s perspective as a designer. During this time, I got more involved in applying various Digital Signal processing algorithms into the hardware design for extracting different features from the signal and then storing the information and transferring it. So, this is the area where my primary interest lies – in the system level integration, DSP algorithms implementation.

While working at Intel I got a chance to work with the DFX IPs, understanding the ASIC design in depth. I have worked as a verification engineer for the DFx IPs where the requirements for coverage, assertions were met while testing and validating the features of the IP.

What do you like to do (hobbies, etc)?

I love running! I am a Half Marathon runner, pretty much anticipating to convert into a full marathon runner soon. Other than that, I love traveling, exploring less popular places, and definitely connecting with new people.

What do you like best about living in the U.S.? 

There are a lot of pet animals around, especially doggos. Seeing them always lightens your heart.

What is the hardest thing about living here? 

Missing my motherland at times.

What do you know now that you wish you knew before coming here? 

Life is gonna get busy and 24 hours in a day are not sufficient to accomplish all that you want to, unless there is a proper plan meticulously executed with discipline and laser-like focus.

Connect with Ajay on Instagram, LinkedIn.

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