UAH welcomes Dr. Vineetha Menon to the College of Science

Vineetha Menon

UAH welcomes Dr. Vineetha Menon to the College of Science.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Unlike most young people who think about their future and career before choosing a field of study, Vineetha Menon's decision for choosing Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) as a college major has roots in a more whimsical story.

"When I was young, I remember my dad speaking highly of the son of a colleague who had elected to undertake the ‘toughest major’ — ECE and was offered admission into a prestigious school. After such accolades by my father to another young person, I resolved that I was going to undertake the challenge of ECE (whatever that meant)," said Dr. Vineetha Menon, Assistant Professor in The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) Department of Computer Science. In the end, her dad stopped praising his friend’s son and Menon chose ECE as a college major and was the recipient of her dad’s accolades and praise.

Menon, a new faculty member in the UAH College of Science is from Bangalore, Karnataka, India. An honors student, she earned a Bachelor of Technology degree in Electronics and Communication from Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetam University.

"Recognize that electrons have no gender."

Dr. Vineetha Menon
Assistant Professor Computer Science

She heard about UAH from colleagues and alumni from the university and Mississippi State University (MSU). "UAH and MSU share a strong working relationship. Many MSU graduates are placed in companies in Huntsville and many MSU faculty members have joined UAH and vice versa." Menon views Huntsville as rapidly evolving into a vital southern technology hub.

"That mantle makes it increasingly attractive to young professionals and students from across the country. As Huntsville matures in this role, UAH becomes an even more prime place for academicians," said Menon. "UAH offers a great platform for exciting research opportunities through building collaborations with NASA, Redstone Arsenal and other industries situated in and around Huntsville. It provides an excellent work-life balance atmosphere with the warm character of ‘southern charm.’

Before coming to UAH, Menon served in teaching and research assistant positions in the MSU ECE Department. At UAH, Menon's research has three focus areas: Big Data and Social Computing, developing predictive data analytics based on human behavior for threat detection, performance analysis, and overall employee wellness; Big Data and Cybersecurity, employing big data analytics to improve intrusion detection in cyber control systems; and Big Data and Remote Sensing, applying big data analytics for remote sensing applications such as better classification and detection of land covers, and prediction of atmospheric changes. She is chartered to create and develop the Big Data Analytics Laboratory at UAH soon.

As a rising scientist in the ECE field, Menon has worked on a variety of other influential research projects including the study of microtubules and its role in Alzheimer’s detection, and she designed a speech processing IR robot that stored words/commands. When the words were spoken, the robot would carry out the designated action; and enhancement of medical images featuring extraction of biomedical images done by applying various image transformation techniques like histogram processing, image thresholding, and log transformations.

Menon's major contributions in the biomedical signal and image processing area has been development of novel analytical solutions to overcome physical limitations. "For instance, changes in dynamic instability phenomenon in microtubules (MT) have shown to play a key role in triggering various diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson disease and different forms of cancers. Therefore, my work on MTs served as a touchstone for the option of extending my research associated with pathological diseases as cancer, and to develop analytical tools that assist the creation of therapeutic solutions."

This semester, she is teaching Big Data Analytics and will soon create an advanced Big Data Analytics course at UAH. Menon firmly believes the "art of teaching" is the most efficient means of knowledge transfer. "It gives me great satisfaction to interact with students and to introduce them to the myriad of techniques that break down complex concepts and make analytics more simple and comprehensive," she said. "As has often been said, students tend to keep you young with their unbiased and inquisitive minds and creative thoughts. They invariably will challenge you as the instructor/mentor to explore a topic more deeply and force you to stay ahead of the curve."

Knowing that a mentor changes a life, Menon considers herself both "fortunate and blessed to have met many exceptional mentors at different stages in life who have greatly influenced my thinking both personally and professionally. My list of mentors start with my family, close friends, a favorite teacher from kindergarten to professors who encouraged me to keep striving despite all odds, and through my encounters with remarkable professional women out there who inspire me to scale new heights."

She grew up with a strong implicit belief in equality of the genders. Collaterally, she also believed that anything and everything could be achieved through hard work and perseverance.

"It did not occur to me that the electrical and computer sciences were more on the order of male exclusive until I entered my undergrad schooling and became aware that I had relatively few women peers. Graduate school was even sparser, in which I was often the only female member in many of my graduate classes," she pointed out. "It became more evident that the professional ladder was populated with relatively few women in leadership positions. So that made me ponder about the very structure of our social system and the need for a change, starting with overhauling the stereotype that women are ill-suited for the Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) fields."

Menon realizes some leadership changes for women have occurred, and those changes have been made possible through contributions and sacrifices of many people who worked toward the same goal. "I strongly believe in 'be the change that you want to see in this world'. For me that little step towards accomplishing this goal as a student was through the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers-Women in Engineering (IEEE- WIE) affinity group at MSU to provide inclusion, professional, and personal development of women and minorities in STEM and in every walk of life. In that respect, I have strived to bring about change by means of gender diversity and motivating young undergrads to accept the challenge of grad school as an avenue for their dreams."

In her commitment to diversity, Menon aspires to continue the charter at UAH by starting an ACM-W chapter for women in computing, an organization for encouragement and assistance to more women and minorities to take up roles as professional contributors to the scientific community.

Menon is the recipient of a number of awards, honors and recognitions including the Outstanding Graduate Woman Award, 2016, Graduate School Hall of Fame and Outstanding Graduate Student Award, Inspiring Student Member of the Year Award, Student Hall of Fame Award, Spirit of State Award. She served as President of the IEEE-WIE Affinity Group for MSU, and President of IEEE- Eta Kappa Nu Honor Society, Gamma Omega Chapter, MSU.

She earned a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from MSU in 2016.

Menon's best piece of advice for undergraduates — especially young women considering a career in the STEM fields is to "recognize that electrons have no gender. And that understanding of their properties, action and reactions, along with an intelligent data analysis will give you a command of them as a utility, and consequently guide you to professional success whether at the device level, the system level, or at the software language level."

In her leisure time, Menon likes hiking, whitewater rafting, kayaking, sketching, writing, reading, and high intensity roller coasters.


Dr. Vineetha Menon