Fall 2020: Pedro Cisneros


Name: Pedro Cisneros
Advisor: Francesco Bullo
Hometown: Trujillo, Peru

Previous degrees: B.Sc. Electrical Engineering, Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP), M.Sc. Electrical and Computer Engineering, UCSB M.A. Mathematical Statistics, UCSB
Degree sought from UCSB: PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Degree progress: Incoming fifth year.

Professional memberships: IEEE, SIAM, Econometrica Society
Honors and Awards: Network Science IGERT Traineeship
Hobbies, activities and interests: Dancing, painting, philosophy, theology, foreign languages.

Website link: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=VvVRo5oAAAAJ&hl=en



Research Program: Systems and Control

Main area of research: Network/multi-agent systems, applied dynamical systems

Research interests: Control of network systems, game theory, optimization theory, statistical and machine learning

Master Thesis or dissertation title/topic: Distributionally Robust Optimization and the Graphical Lasso

Title of your most important publication to date: Structural Balance via Gradient Flows over Signed Graphs

Please describe your research in more detail 
My research is divided in three main themes. First, I work on the mathematical modeling of social processes, e.g., how interpersonal appraisals can evolve in a social network, or how influences and positive/negative relationships affect the opinions or beliefs of individuals in a social network. My second research area is the study of stability tools for dynamic systems with possible applications to multi-agent or network systems, e.g., applications on distributed optimization problems. My third research work has been the analysis of diverse problems related to multi-agent or network systems, e.g., the analysis of high-order interactions in epidemic models.

What made you interested in your area of research and how did you get in to it?
My interest originated from a genuine sense of wonder about how it is possible that systems composed of different entities that perform some local computations can give rise to more coherent or complex aggregate behavior. For example, in nature, the fact that bird flocks can coordinate a synchronized flight; or, in social networks, the fact that bits of information (or misinformation) that originated somewhere with few people can spread and become viral.

What motivates you in your research?
I get motivation just from the fact that I enjoy what I am doing, and that I always want to generate new knowledge.

How has your research and UCSB changed you?
My research has made me a more methodical person, and to get an understanding of complex subjects, even though they might be outside my field of expertise. UCSB has provided me a good environment to interact with very smart people (professors, students, visitors), and which has enriched my academic experience. Non-academically, UCSB has allowed me to learn one more language and be a more serious dancer on swing and Latin dancing.

UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere. How do you collaborate with e.g., your advisor and other faculty, groups, research areas, departments, students (in and outside your group)?
I was fortunate that I started grad school with a traineeship that allowed me to have good conversations with students and faculty from different departments. After that was over, my funding came from another interdisciplinary group from students and faculty from electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, and sociology. Once I got into more research, I have had good conversations with other grad students too. Also, when getting my master’s in mathematical statistics, I have interacted and/or collaborated with faculty and students from the applied probability and statistics department. Honestly, most of the discussions and ideas with other students, pos-docs or professors at my lab or elsewhere, simply came from us sitting down in front a board and having most of our discussions in a very colloquial and spontaneous way. With my advisor, when in person, we had fruitful discussions at his office and in the lab, many of times with other collaborators. When remotely, Zoom meetings have been very productive with my advisor.



What is your experience living in Santa Barbara? 
I have so far only lived in Goleta, which I have been enjoying a lot: it is a calm area and very close to large grocery stores and UCSB. Living close to Santa Barbara city has also allowed me to attend and participate in diverse cultural and artistic events. For example, art exhibitions and dance events (e.g., swing and Latin dancing) are very common.  

What are your personal Career Goals? Where do you want to be in 10 years?
As of now, I would like to pursue an academic career, so, in 10 years, I see myself as a reputable faculty or researcher in a national lab. I don’t completely discard working in industry because I am very open to surprises in this life, but it is not my priority now. I would also like to do some more painting.

Are you or have you been a TA or GSR?
I am a GSR, but I was a grader for two grad classes in the past.

What classes/labs do/did you teach 
I haven’t taught any classes or labs. I had, however, mentored an undergraduate student during summer, as well as taught a computer science summer camp for high school students at UCSB.

What made you select UCSB and the Electrical Engineering program?
Obviously, its prestigious reputation and the amazing faculty we have here.

What are your experiences with the program so far?
My experiences can be summarized as a very pleasant but challenging journey of academic discovery.

What are some of the department and the program's strengths?
I would say that the strengths are that my electrical engineering department has been very supportive when I required something in terms of paperwork or supplies. I am also grateful for the mechanical engineering and applied probability statistics department for being very helpful when needing supplies or certain services too.

How would you explain campus life as an engineering student?
Campus life is very pleasant. Although we, as engineering students, might be surrounded by math and the same buildings all the time, there are always events around campus that we can get some distraction from. Also, we are basically free to take some classes to learn something new outside our field. Moreover, there is the RecCen that offers a variety of fun classes, like dancing.

What challenges have you faced as a student or researcher?
There are two big challenges.  One is “getting stuck” in the middle of a project, which happens when I am proving some mathematical facts but then I coma across this mathematical rock that is difficult to move. For example, this happens when there is a conjecture to be proved and which I know might be true because of “simulations” or “mathematical intuition” but seems difficult or tricky to prove. The other big challenge, amazingly, is to find a new interesting project. Once a project is closed and the respective publication sent, it is very challenging to find a new exciting open problem because it requires an exhaustive literature search, as well as being in uncharted waters!

What would you say to others who are considering becoming a student or researcher at UCSB?
I would say that this is an amazing place where you can easily interact and collaborate with other students and/or faculty. There are always interesting academic events going throughout the year organized by the CCDC, where we can even have the chance to talk to faculty outside our very own alma mater! Moreover, at UCSB there are several cultural and artistic events that can give us some relaxing moments.



What is your living situation like? (Roommates, living at home, apartment, student housing etc.)
I used to live in graduate housing, now I live in a shared house.

5 words your family and friends would use to describe you?
Optimistic, respectful, perseverant, smart, creative.

What are your biggest strengths?
I am good at working by myself and under very adverse environments (e.g., under stress or now during this coronavirus outbreak). I also like discussing and knowing about a plethora of things even outside my field, which could be history, politics, religion, society, etc.

Favorite classe(s) you have ever taken? Why did you like it/them so much? 
One of my favorite class was Stochastic Calculus, and I like it because it was taught in a very engaging way and it has been a topic that has always caught my attention.

What are your plans for the near future? (travel, research, internship etc)
I hope to continue my research and finish the late stages of my doctoral program.

What is on your bucket list this year?
Submit two new papers for publication!

What did you want to be growing up when you were younger?
I first wanted to be a paleontologist (when I was very young), and then I wanted to become a roboticist. It is not too late to become the latter one, though.

What is something you can't go a day without doing?
Except for Sundays, I can’t go a day without doing some work. For the rest of the days, I always pray and walk.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Be who I am today; a productive graduate student in a very prestigious university trying to be a man of good will.

What are some people you have looked up to in your life? How have they inspired or impacted you?
My parents and grandparents have inspired me because they have showed good examples of hard work and what is to be a good man.

Please share a moment in your life that has really affected who you are today
My parents gave me a build-your-own robot kit as a gift. After such experience, I decided I wanted to be an Electrical Engineer (otherwise I would perhaps continue thinking on being a paleontologist!), and basically my career choices came as a result of this moment in my life.