Success Stories

India to Indiana: Purdue Ph.D. Student Is Thriving With Help From Modern States

When Purdue University student Abhishek Sharma wanted to devote his time to computer-science research rather than the general-education classes required for his major, he turned to Modern States.

Our philanthropy offers a free online collection of college-professor-led, freshman-level classes tied to the College Board’s College Level Examination Program (CLEP). Passing CLEP test scores can be used as credit at more than 2,900 colleges and universities, including Purdue.

Sharma took nine CLEPS that translated into Purdue credits after studying with Modern States. As we do for all our learners, our charity also paid the $85 for each CLEP exam as well as his test center proctor fees.

“I ended up saving one semester entirely and in the other semester, I mainly did research and I just took one course,” Sharma said in an interview. As for the money he saved, “To ballpark it, it was around $25,000.”

High School Lesson

Sharma’s interest in computer science began as a high schooler in India, when he came across a visually impaired man working on a computer who, with the help of special software, was able to successfully navigate the machine.

“I was surprised and happy for him,” Sharma, now 27, said. “He was very cheerful with his life and living in the moment.”

Speaking of living in the moment, that was a big one for Sharma, who was so inspired by what he saw, he eventually made it his career goal to study artificial intelligence and the human language.

Upon high school graduation in 2016, that interest fueled a more than 8,000-mile journey from India to Indiana, as Sharma became an undergraduate in Purdue’s Department of Computer Science.

He is now a second-year Ph.D. student focused on a career researching artificial intelligence, helping teach computers how to gain common sense human language.

“It takes five years (for humans) to get a sense of a language and 10 years to get to know the abstractions of language, such as sarcasm and satire,” Sharma said. “So, it’s very challenging. Our research tries to understand the nuances, uncover them and come up with a framework where we can do daily tasks.”

Purdue ‘Fast Start’

The success of students such as Sharma no doubt influenced Purdue to form a partnership with Modern States. Together, we created a Fast Start program at the school designed to promote affordable access to world-class higher education. Indiana students can now earn assured admission to Purdue — part of the Big Ten Academic Alliance — by passing five Modern States courses, the corresponding CLEP exams, and meeting Purdue’s standard admissions requirements.

As for other on-campus interests, Sharma said he loves racket sports, and specifically badminton.

And what about those other sports that most Purdue Boilermakers live and breathe for — football and basketball?

“I have to do more (research) on it,” he said, smiling.

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