Spotlight on new faculty — an interview with A. Ravishankar Rao

Interview by Kaidi Ilves

Fairleigh Dickinson University welcomes A. Ravishankar Rao as an assistant professor for the Gildart Haase School of Computer Sciences & Engineering at University College Arts * Sciences * Professional Studies. Rao holds a Ph.D. in computer engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers fellow and an IBM master inventor.

ravi rao
FDU: Tell us about your new position at FDU...

Ravishankar Rao: University College brought me on board as an assistant professor for the Computer Sciences and Engineering Program. For the past 25 years, I worked as a research staff member at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center and at IBM Global Business Services. I’ve now reached a stage in my career where my interests are based more on giving back, and thus, I took this position as a way to give back to both the society and my field — I’m delighted to have the opportunity to prepare the next generation of engineers and scientists for successful careers.

 

FDU: How did you become interested in this field?

RR: As a child, I was interested in tinkering with and building gadgets, and figuring out how things work. Throughout the years, I was quite fortunate to cross paths with teachers who kept me motivated and inspired me to follow my passion. Largely thanks to them, I went on to receive a B. Tech degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, followed by a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

FDU: Could you tell us a little more about your research?

RR: I have several fields of interest, including neural simulation, brain science, machine learning, data mining, pattern recognition, image processing, machine vision, practical applications of imaging science and technology, human perception, and visualization. As I mentioned before, I was with IBM for a quarter of a century, which allowed me to take a multi-faceted approach to the field. My work has resulted in twenty-four patents and eighty publications. I have published a book entitled “A Taxonomy for Texture Description and Identification” and I am also the associate editor of the journals “Pattern Recognition”, “Neural Networks”, and “Machine Vision and Applications”.

FDU: What is something that you would like to contribute to FDU?

RR: My goal is to bring the passion I have for the sciences and engineering to the students at FDU. I have had a very successful career, and would like to share my knowledge and wisdom with the students, while also serving as an inspiration for them.

Additionally, I have a lot of ideas on improving the effectiveness of teaching, and I find FDU to be the right milieu for me to develop innovative solutions to teaching STEM fields. In an effort to explore these ideas, I have already started collaborating with faculty members in education and psychology.

FDU: What is something you hope your students will take away from your classes?

RR: Every subject in school can become interesting and fascinating if one has the right approach and perspective. I want my students to develop this type of an approach, based on asking fundamental questions like “why are we doing this?” At the end of my classes, I want them to be able to understand the material so thoroughly that they can explain it to a layperson—maybe their grandmother!

FDU: What is one piece of advice you can give your new students?

RR: You must love to learn! Get excited about the learning process: watch movies, read books, discuss ideas with your friends and family, participate in discussions on social media. Get engaged!