Mikhail Karasev


For Mikhail Karasev '20, Columbia Engineering has proved the perfect training ground for exploring all of his interests, from hardware, software, and intelligent systems, to entrepreneurship, space exploration, and more.

“I love to keep moving, explore new fields, and meet new people,” he said. “At Columbia I have the flexibility and resources to understand whatever I want to pursue. Plus, some of the most influential companies in the world are just a few subway stops away.”

Originally from Russia, the Egleston Scholar came to campus intent on studying mechanical engineering and spent much of his first year 3D printing and laser cutting in the Columbia Makerspace. But that summer, conducting research in Professor Sunil Agrawal’s Robotics and Rehabilitation (RoAR) Lab, he discovered a new passion for software. Analyzing data to help improve special cable-driven treadmills that aid stroke patients in recovery, he saw firsthand how data science can change lives.

Karasev has been coding in earnest ever since, studying advanced programming with Professor Jae Woo Lee, working on an artificial intelligence tool in Professor Hod Lipson’s Creative Machines Lab, and conducting natural language processing research with Lecturer Ansaf Salleb-Aouissi. At the same time, he’s continued tinkering with hardware, taking classes in electrical engineering and working as a teaching assistant for Lecturer David Vallancourt, whose Art of Engineering course showed him “what it takes to work in a team on a full-scale project and implement it from idea to final product.”

“It’s hard to describe what a great feeling it is to finish a culminating lab building a fully-operational web server from nothing after 30 hours of nonstop work,” said Karasev, who has also served as a course assistant for Professor Donald Ferguson’s introduction to databases.

Lately, he’s been taking these interests in an entrepreneurial direction. As a leader in the Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs (CORE), he has contributed to Almaworks, an intensive accelerator program for student startups, and recently organized a “tech trek” to Shanghai to help students explore opportunities in China.

“We learned a lot about entrepreneurship and the Chinese startup ecosystem from people in Shanghai’s tech scene,” Karasev said. “Our team toured startups, accelerators, and venture capital offices, and tried a ton of local food!”

He’s also co-led a Columbia Space Initiative team that developed a prototype for collecting asteroid samples that NASA selected for testing in Houston, and competed in several hackathons, earning “best hardware hack” at HackHarvard and second at HackNY, hosted on campus.

Eager to share his Columbia experience with others, he volunteers with Columbia’s Global Recruitment Committee, interviewing applicants in eastern Europe and helping fellow international students make the most of life in New York City.

This past summer, Karasev headed to Seattle to work as a software engineering intern at Microsoft on applications for machine learning in the cloud. After graduation, he hopes to gain experience in finance, consulting, or product management before returning to school for a dual degree in business and a quantitative field to better understand how human interactions drive the economy.

“I still have a lot of interests I’m exploring, and am working to improve my skills in business, strategy, communications, marketing, and technology for a knowledge base I can potentially apply to any field.”

Student Spotlight

At Columbia ... some of the most influential companies in the world are just a few subway stops away.

Mikhail Karasev