Iowa State University Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Srikanta Tirthapura‘s career has spanned two decades and taken him across the country and around the globe. More recently, his work in the field of big data has earned him recognition from Kingland, a data processing group based in Clear Lake, Iowa. Tirthapura was awarded a medallion and a Kingland faculty position title, Kingland Professor of Data Analytics, on May 2 at the Kingland Faculty Recognition Ceremony at Iowa State’s Memorial Union.
Tirthapura’s career began at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras where he earned his Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science. From there, he went on to Brown University to earn his Ph. D. in Computer Science. He started working at Iowa State in 2002, and after his tenure, he went to work as a consultant for industry giant Oracle. It is at Oracle that Tirthapura experienced the excitement of big data — not just collection, but interpretation of the data.
“At Oracle, there was so much talk about how data is growing, how you can’t find better ways to manage it,” Tirthapura said. “At this point, it’s cheap enough to store a whole bunch of data. Now, getting information out of it is a completely different story. That’s how I ended up working in this big data area.”
Since then, he has been a visiting engineer at Laserlike Inc. and a visiting researcher at Microsoft Research. Tirthapura received the IBM Faculty Award in 2013 and 2014 for his work at Iowa State, and he now works with scalable algorithms and software for management of big data. All of this adds up to getting real information out of enormous amounts of data collected. In the future, he hopes to relate big data to real life applications like healthcare analytics and data security.
The recent award from Kingland recognizes Tirthapura’s dedication to researching and teaching in big data and is accompanied by $1.5 million in scholarships from the company for students pursuing careers in the field. Day to day, the Kingland professorship will help Tirthapura better his courses relating to data analysis, create new courses and provide the flexibility to explore new research areas for which funding has not already been secured.
Former University President Steven Leath commented on the award, “We are so grateful for the generosity of Kingland and David [Kingland CEO and chairman] and Deb [wife of David] Kingland in supporting Iowa State,” said Leath. “These scholarships and named faculty positions will benefit Iowa State students studying data analytics, entrepreneurship and business administration. Knowledge in this area is in demand both here in Iowa and around the world.”
Tirthapura credits his success to his colleagues, graduate students and collaborators both within and outside the university.