Interview with Dr. Zurada, candidate for IEEE President-Elect

July 11, 2018

Dr. Jacek Zurada, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is seeking the position of President-Elect for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for 2019. If elected he would then become the organization's president in 2020. Zurada provided the following responses to the Speed School Communications and Marketing team about his candidacy for IEEE Presidency.

You are a candidate for 2019 IEEE President-Elect (2020 President). Can you say a few words about this organization?
I feel very honored to be nominated as a Candidate for this Presidency as there is no other technology organization that could match the IEEE brand, its vast intellectual property of more than 4.5 million manuscripts, and its stellar reputation. With over 420,000 members in 160 countries, 186 technical journals consistently scoring near the top of impact rankings, and with 1800 conferences per year, IEEE (The Institute) is a leader in advancement of technology for humanity. The Institute’s mission is to promote technology to make peoples’ lives better, more fulfilled and easier. It’s hard not to be passionate about something that is transforming our lives for better and on our watch. And I feel especially privileged because I have found myself right in the center of this ongoing landmark change.
How do you believe the organization affects the world we live in?
Over the last 20 years, we have witnessed an unprecedented growth of technology. Innovations in communications, microelectronics, computing and artificial intelligence are rapidly disrupting the old ways we live, communicate, work, learn, entertain, and travel. IEEE has been on the forefront of these breakthroughs by advancing their growth and by building communities worldwide around the Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, Big Data, Digital Senses, and other emerging technologies. Formally, IEEE is divided into 46 Societies and Councils, themselves standalone world leaders in their own fields: Computer, Communications, Power and Energy, Information Theory, Signal Processing, Consumer Electronics, Electron Devices, Control Systems, Sensors, and dozens others.

How does this candidacy connect with your career as a UofL Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering?
They are very connected, and complementary missions, the university being more local and the IEEE more global. The difference is in reach, measured as a radius horizontally and a depth measured vertically across many disciplines! The connection is through passion: I am truly enthusiastic about the technology and I have served as a member of UofL faculty for the last 37 years. This passion has led me to author several textbooks including the pioneering neural networks text and over 420 refereed publications on deep learning, neural networks and image/signal processing. I have advised 22 PhD students, who are now leaders in academia, Google, Facebook and Amazon. With nearly 12,000 citations to my work and a successful academic career, at this stage of my career I am ready to make a mark on my profession, beyond any single university, on a more global scale.
Are you prepared to lead such a diverse and global organization?
I had multicultural exposure in my educational upbringing in Poland and Switzerland, followed by my 30+ year-long professional career in the US. I spent sabbaticals at Princeton and leading universities in Singapore, China, Hong Kong and Japan for the total of some four years, after counting some 20 summers I spent there. In addition to English, I speak native Polish, fluent German, French and Russian. These experiences have significantly shaped my outlook and given me the confidence and skills required to be an effective leader of the increasingly global IEEE.
What are your recent accomplishments for the IEEE?
I led a pioneering and successful effort to deliver educational products and services created by Societies/Councils free to members and for a fee to the general public. I launched the Globalization Initiative that fostered a new word-wide generation of volunteers in publishing, conferences and governance. I also supported and championed 12 new practitioner-oriented IEEE Magazines and three new Compendia/Virtual Journals (as a member and/or Chair of the IEEE Periodicals Committee 2006-13). The list is much longer.
How are your students at UofL benefitting from your leadership in IEEE?
I hope to inspire my students by teaching them both in class and in the research lab to the best of my abilities. When students interact with a widely recognized authority in their profession, they learn better, become more motivated, assertive and confident. Every student who tries hard and gets an A in my class will get a solid recommendation letter from me that will make his or her career hopefully more successful. Interacting with me and the IEEE, UofL students are getting connected to the global world of technology. And this is a valuable experience as an engineer in Kentucky competes with an engineer in Germany, China or Brazil.
What will be your most important goal to achieve, if elected?
My flagship/signature project will be to embrace advances in AI to help transform IEEE from today’s traditional technical ‘paper provider’ to a ‘knowledge provider.’ The way the existing IEEE knowledge base (called IEEE Xplore) of over 4.5 million papers and standards is organized doesn’t fit well the needs of engineers, scientists and researchers. Instead of offering users the knowledge, we provide them very traditional, raw information formatted as ‘papers.’ Text analytics and knowledge discovery tools can turn this ever-growing collection of documents into a much more valuable, customized resource. This way the new, AI-aligned IEEE Xplore will deliver personalized bits of knowledge that meet users’ expectations. Needless to say, this will help both the academics and also industry practitioners.
What leadership experience do you personally consider most remarkable?
The 2004-05 experience I acquired as a President of IEEE Computational Intelligence Society has been perhaps the most formative. This job has built on my technical strength as an Editor-in-Chief of the Society’s flagship journal. The Society Presidency required leadership skills, creativity, collegiality, and a solid vision for the Society that was young, growing and ambitious. At the end of the road, we have made a big difference by working as a good team. It was also a very rewarding period when I had to do the strategy, budgeting, and implementation of projects that have built fundamentals for a very successful technical Society as we know it today.
Why should IEEE members vote for you?
IEEE is a multi-faceted, global organization that needs a President with a unique combination of leadership, technical vision, and people skills. As an IEEE Life Fellow who held top IEEE leadership positions in three major Boards of the organization (including the VP-Technical Activities), chaired six key TAB Committees and was a Society President, I believe I have the vision, knowledge, and experience to take the leading role. I communicate well, form partnerships, and support innovations.

I am happy to add that in my Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, 94% of faculty are IEEE members, and that several Speed School Department Chairs are members. I’m also very pleased to know that our new Dean, Dr. Emmanuel Collins, is a Senior IEEE Member. We have a strong IEEE Louisville Section chaired by one of our ECE alumni, Kevin Kurtz, and our students have a vibrant IEEE Student Branch in Speed. The upcoming ABET Accreditation of the Speed School program is also led by IEEE that credentials our accreditation at the BS and MEng level.
How can Speed School and UofL Students, Faculty, and Alumni follow your campaign?
As elections are between August 15 and September 30, I am in the middle of my very busy election campaign that involves travel and meeting with the electorate in this country, Canada, South America, Asia, and Europe. I am often invited to meet with members over the web, to present a video lecture, tutorial, or am interviewed by my constituents (students, young professionals, industry reps) across the globe. This is not only super fun, but also very informative as I can find out directly about our members’ needs.

I have built a strong presence on social media and am encouraging all sympathizers to follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to stay in touch with my campaign. They can visit, re-share/follow any content I post that they find interesting. My website has lots of information about my plans, accomplishments and current news about the exciting campaign events. This tag #zurada4IEEEPresident will also link the followers to the many issues that are faced by the profession and professionals in this rapidly changing world.

I am delighted to hear from the UofL community at I thank you for your time and attention.