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Ananda Theertha Suresh Honored With Paul Baran Young Scholar Award

Press Release
09/14/2017

The Marconi Society, dedicated to furthering scientific achievements in communications and the Internet, will honor Google Research Scientist and UC San Diego PhD Ananda Theertha Suresh with the 2017 Paul Baran Young Scholar Award. The 28-year-old researcher will receive the award at an awards ceremony in Summit, NJ on October 3, 2017.

Suresh’s research focuses on understanding the most efficient ways to use information, data and communication. As a PhD student at UC San Diego, Suresh showed why Good-Turing frequency estimation works well and developed improvements to the technique, creating an estimator that works across fields ranging from genetics to language modeling. At Google Research, his work helps provide sophisticated communications capabilities and applications to people with low bandwidth Internet connections and low-end devices.

Suresh’s innovations in distribution estimation, co-authored with Alon Orlitsky and described in “Competitive Distribution Estimation: Why is Good-Turing Good,” won a best paper award at the 2015 Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) conference. In addition, the prestigious 2017 Annual ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing (STOC) chose Suresh’s work for presentation at their first-ever “best of theory” session.

“Ananda applied his philosophy to several important tasks in probability estimation, compression, classification, closeness testing, and outlier detection,” said Alon Orlitsky, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and Suresh’s PhD advisor and nominator for the award. “In all these problems he derived crisp, insightful, and surprising results that often required broad vision, keen intuition, and mastery of diverse technical skills, a highly unusual combination for such a nascent researcher.”

As a Research Scientist at Google Research, Suresh follows his passion to make communications available to everyone. Access and opportunities for those in developing countries are gated by low-bandwidth Internet services, as well as by low-end devices that have limited storage and intelligence. In most machine learning algorithms used to support capabilities such as autocomplete suggestions when a user is searching, the phone sends all the information about the search to the server and the server sends all the information back to the phone. Suresh’s algorithms reduce the amount of data that needs to be sent to the network on the uplink – the bottleneck in the entire process – thereby reducing data sent and data costs by orders of magnitude.

According to Dr. Michael D. Riley, Principal Research Scientist and Manager at Google Research, “Ananda’s research has already led to algorithms that give better compression for a given decompression time budget than we have previously used and this work is now used by millions of people within speech and keyboard input applications in Google products.”

“I am a great admirer of some of the previous Marconi Society Young Scholar winners and I am humbled and honored to be in their company,” said Suresh. “I look forward to interacting with the other Young Scholars and Fellows. I know that talking with them and learning from them will inspire me to tackle the most challenging problems in the world.”

As the first in his family to attend college, Suresh’s goal is to deeply understand the fundamental limits of what is possible in data science so that he can develop a set of tools that will make an impact on people who have access to only limited resources.

“Suresh’s work requires very diverse techniques ranging from high-dimensional statistics and approximation theory to information theory, which clearly demonstrates the depth of his understanding,” remarked Yihong Wu, 2011 Marconi Society Young Scholar, Assistant Professor of Statistics and Data Science at Yale University and collaborator at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing. “Furthermore, it attests to his vision, intuition and good judgment as a theoretical data scientist. I am thoroughly impressed by his creative and systematic way of thinking and great tenacity when tackling tough research.”

Young Scholar candidates are nominated by their academic advisors. Winners are selected by an international panel comprised of engineers from leading universities and companies, and receive a $4000 prize plus expenses to attend the annual awards event. Three other Young Scholars were also selected this year.

Suresh will receive his award at the same event where former Bell Labs chief Arun Netravali, regarded as the “father of digital video,” will be honored with the $100,000 Marconi Prize.



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