Post Date
Nov 20 2023

Dr. Yahya Sattar's Inspiring Journey in Applied Mathematics and Machine Learning

Sara Amir - Carl Sagan Intern

Dr. Yahya Sattar, an alumnus of the Syed Babar Ali School of Science and Engineering (SBASSE) at LUMS, recently achieved the remarkable milestone of defending his PhD thesis at UC Riverside. His journey has been a testament to his passion for Applied Mathematics and the invaluable support he received from the faculty and the National Outreach Program (NOP) at LUMS. Dr. Yahya is now pursuing cutting-edge research in Electrical Engineering, Machine learning, Optimization, Statistics, and Applied Mathematics at Cornell University as a postdoc. 

Prof. Zubair Khalid (Left) from the Department of Electrical Engineering at SBASSE and Dr. Yahya Sattar (Right) at UC Riverside, California after Dr. Sattar successfully defended his PhD dissertation. Dr. Yahya was overjoyed to have his mentor, Prof.  Zubair, by his side. 


Born in the picturesque village of Keris in Baltistan, Dr. Yahya started his educational journey in a government primary school in Skardu and then moved on to his intermediate education at Cadet College Skardu. In 2011, getting admitted to SBASSE at LUMS was an extraordinary moment for him. “I cannot express in words the support I got from NOP at LUMS. Whatever I have achieved so far would not have been possible without the generous support of NOP”, he mentions, looking back on his journey. 

Deeply passionate about Mathematics and its real-world applications, Dr. Yahya explored his interests at SBASSE through courses like Modern Physics, Signals and Systems, Advanced Digital Signal Processing, Data Structures, and Communication Systems. Inspired by dedicated instructors, especially Dr. Momin Uppal, who fueled his ambition in Statistical Learning Theory and Applied Mathematics, Dr. Yahya pursued advanced courses, deepening his interest.

After graduating from LUMS in 2015, Dr. Yahya worked as a research assistant under Dr. Zubair Khalid, resulting in two research papers in the IEEE ICASSP conference. Dr Yahya shared that Dr.  Zubiar played a pivotal role in training him as a researcher by guiding him in formulating research problems and exploring solutions. This experience led to fully funded PhD offers from multiple U.S. universities, and he chose UC Riverside, focusing on the theoretical foundations of Machine Learning algorithms with Dr. Samet Oymak. During his 2017 PhD, Dr. Yahya's work expanded the understanding of nonlinear dynamical systems, exploring Markov Jump Systems, Bilinear Systems, and various Nonlinear Systems. His contributions had a ripple effect, inspiring follow-up research at MIT, UC Berkeley, Caltech, and Harvard.

Dr. Yahya at University of California, Riverside where he received his Ph.D. During his time at UCR, he worked on nonlinear dynamical systems


Dr. Yahya continues his academic odyssey by joining Cornell University, collaborating with Dr. Sarah Dean to advance the intersection of Machine Learning, optimization, statistics, and applied mathematics. By collaborating with excellent researchers, he plans to design safe and reliable control policies for various dynamical systems and extend his earlier works on developing a framework for learning and controlling nonlinear dynamical systems. As he looks to the future, he envisions significant advancements in AI and Machine Learning technology, which has already begun with tools like ChatGPT. "In future, more advancements will be in incorporating feedback with machine intelligence. This will lead to tremendous progress in autonomous driving technology and robotics. We will be able to give verbal commands to the robots, which will then plan and execute the task it is asked to do", remarks Dr. Yahya.  

For students aspiring to follow in his footsteps, Dr. Yahya stresses the importance of mathematical skills as essential tools to navigate the world of research in Machine Learning Theory and Dynamical Systems. Additionally, he suggests students not shy away from advanced courses in applied mathematics. "I would encourage them to build a solid understanding of Statistical Learning and Optimization", he says.  

He shares one crucial piece of advice: "The formula to overcome challenges is simple – "never give up!" Difficulties and challenges are an integral part of our life."  He has encountered numerous challenges throughout his research career, including initial PhD rejections and subsequent dismissal from a research lab at UC Riverside. Eventually, he came in touch with a Phd advisor working on applied mathematics and joined his research lab which was working on precisely what he is passionate about. Overcoming obstacles is a fundamental part of the journey toward greater rewards.

Dr. Yahya's remarkable story is a testament to the endless possibilities that await those who dare to dream and work tirelessly toward their goals!