Though still early in his career, Suhas Sreehari has moved around the world and spent time in academia, industry, and research. After earning an undergraduate degree in his hometown of Bangalore, India, Sreehari pursued his MS in cryptography in Canada and then his PhD in signal processing at Purdue University in Indiana. He moved to San Francisco and joined the corporate world as Assistant Vice President of Quantitative Analytics at Wells Fargo. Seeking a return to his open-science research roots, Sreehari joined Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a research scientist in 2021.
One common thread in his journey has been the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers — in fact, it’s been a part of his career for so long he can’t remember exactly when or why he joined. In 2022, Sreehari was elevated to Senior Member of the organization, joining fewer than 10% of IEEE’s 400,000+ members worldwide. Learn more about his research and the value of professional society memberships in the brief Q&A below.
Why did you join IEEE?
It was a long time ago — probably because I wanted a discount on a conference registration. It sounds silly now, but sometimes you don’t know the full extent of benefits when you join a professional society. In hindsight though, IEEE has been the backbone for almost everything I do as a researcher — publications, conferences, peer review, awards, networking, you name it.
How do you apply electrical and electronics engineering to your work in cybersecurity?
National security and cybersecurity are important and complex topics. They’re vast, but I focus on a few critical aspects. Let me illustrate with two concrete examples.
First, we are working on making face ID systems fairer and robust. Public-space surveillance is more common than we think — from airports to wealthy neighborhoods. Although they are important to public security, face ID systems are often plagued with human biases. Unfortunately, a person’s appearance plays a big role in how they are perceived. Our work uses AI and mathematical techniques to mitigate this bias by obfuscating personal features prone to discrimination (such as race, sex, religion), while still preserving uniqueness for robust identifiability.
Second, we are trying to track down improper (and potentially fraudulent) payments in Medicare. Security is not always about physical threats to our nation; it’s also about safeguarding the interests of our citizens. Misappropriation of healthcare funds throws a wrench into our healthcare systems, taking away much needed funds from deserving patients. We employ statistical analysis, signal processing, and machine learning methods to characterize abnormal Medicare payments resulting from unsupported diagnoses made by healthcare institutions.
What does elevation to IEEE Senior Member mean to you?
I am honored to know that my achievements have been considered consequential enough by IEEE to elevate me to Senior Member. It’s easy to lose some perspective about one’s own work, but validation from the community is a great reminder and encouragement to keep working hard, collaborate, and enjoy the process of research.
Why do you get from professional memberships like this? Why should others participate in professional societies?
Membership in IEEE gives me a platform to reach out to more people (from students to notable researchers) to shape my field. In addition to being a Senior Member, I am currently the Chairman of the IEEE East Tennessee Section. This places me in a unique position where I can create impact in the AI and ML community. As an example, I am trying to start a small conference where ORNL researchers and UTK faculty and students come together to talk about open problems. In a world where everyone has solutions, I feel it is important to acknowledge that some technical problems are too big or complex to solve without extensive collaboration. IEEE could be a great platform to arrange such collaborations. There are more impact avenues such as mentoring, reproducible research, and open-access education. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all the young researchers, educators, enthusiasts, programmers, engineers, and scientists out there to be a part of a professional organization such as IEEE. These are places that give people a platform from which to effectuate meaningful change.