Study Abroad: U of T Whiz Kid Harnesses AI to Hunt for Extraterrestrial Life

3 minute read
Study Abroad: U of T Whiz Kid Harnesses AI to Hunt for Extraterrestrial Life

Aliens are once again the buzz of the town, and it’s not a UFO this time, it is most likely alien corpses that we have. Yes, you all must have been following the case of alien mummies, but do you know that we are also officially looking for signs of extraterrestrial life in space? And that too with the help of an undergrad University of Toronto student, Peter Ma. 

Who is Peter Ma?

Let’s start this from the beginning. A curious child at the age of 4 used to ask questions about nearly everything to his parents who had almost no answers. Nevertheless, they nurtured his curiosity with things he could learn from and a child, named Peter Ma, became a prodigy in time. 

Ma remembers that at the age of six, he had a telescope and also about his frequent visits to Home Depot and Walmart to buy supplements for his science projects. His interest grew with time and soon he gifted a working chair to his school principal that he designed completely out of recycled materials. 

Peter Ma was always ahead of his class curriculum by reading books from older classes. He started researching machine learning and deep learning in high school and that’s when he got a groundbreaking idea. He thought of designing a space-scanning algorithm to look for extraterrestrial life by using Breakthrough Listen’s open-source data. 

The Road Ahead – AI-Powered Quest for Alien Signals

I was looking for interesting problems to solve.” – Peter Ma

Ma applied for a collaboration to work with SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) and started researching signs of intelligent life with the help of Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning. His collaboration with SETI continued for a long and even during the pandemic, they were working on sending their signals. 

Interestingly, the signals they are sending are not directly researching for life on other planets but signs of intelligence. The wave signals are sent by SETI using Peter Ma’s algorithm to look for radio signals on other planets. Therefore, what they are looking for are signs of advancement and use of technology that only higher beings are capable of developing. 

Radio Signal Graph- Study Abroad: U of T Whiz Kid Harnesses AI to Hunt for Extraterrestrial Life

Peter Ma’s Journey With the University of Toronto

Peter Ma and SETI have discovered 8 such signals so far. After the pandemic, he joined Victoria College at the University of Toronto for his undergrad studies. When he told his mentors about the research and detection of signals, they encouraged him to publish his studies. 

The supervisors helped Ma to send his papers to Nature Astronomy for publication where Peter Ma became a published author. Peter Ma has thus shown great gratitude for his U of T supervisors and collaborators. 

At U of T Ma was encouraged to pursue his research with flexibility to his undergrad curriculum. As a result, he will be working alongside SETI for two more years scanning around a million stars to look for traces of life. 

Currently, he is a third-year student of Mathematics and Physics Specialist (Science Program) at will graduate next year. With his transformative curriculum and supportive professors, he was also able to work with multiple universities. He worked on projects related to particle physics, deep learning machine learning, and more. 

Studying at the right university and in the right curriculum will provide you with opportunities to expand your knowledge and research skills. For instance, Peter Ma was also allowed to use campuses and equipment outside Victoria College for his research projects. 

This flexibility provided by the universities helps students like Peter Ma to graduate as ‘Researchers’ rather than just ‘Graduates’. There are more such stories and universities that we cover in our daily news. Therefore, if you want to read more such exciting information, make sure you follow Leverage Edu News Updates. 

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