Distinguished University Professor Sundararaja Sitharama Iyengar last month received an honorary doctorate of science from Poznan University of Technology in Poland. In a grand ceremony, Iyengar saw his name installed on a list of recipients from past decades and then delivered a lecture on just one area of his vast expertise: cybersecurity and digital forensic trends.
Iyengar was chosen for the prestigious recognition following a rigorous review of his academic and scientific record and confirmation by a second Polish university. Iyengar’s international reputation follows outstanding success in groundbreaking research, inspirational teaching and excellence in service. His research and education interests include high-performance intelligent systems, data science and machine learning algorithms, sensor fusion and data mining.
He is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors with seven shared patents. He is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Association for Advancement of Science and the Association of Computing Machinery. He has published more than 600 papers and has authored, coauthored or edited 32 books.
In addition to being highly cited by other scholars, Iyengar has earned numerous recognitions, among them lifetime achievement and outstanding research awards from organizations around the world. He has mentored 165 graduate students in addition to undergraduates. He served as director of the since-renamed Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences from 2011 to 2020.
Unlike in the United States, where bestowing of an honorary degree is often part of commencement exercises, in Poland it took place as an event on its own and featured rituals that harken back hundreds of years.
“The conferral of the honorary degree is a rich tradition in European universities, and I consider it as one of the jewels of my life,” Iyengar said. “The ceremony was a momentous occasion, not only for me but also my family.” His son and his 13-year-old grandson both attended.
An official of the Poznan University of Technology, or PUT, explained the significance of elevating Iyengar as an outstanding contributor in a line of those who have moved the field forward.
“The evolution of the internet of things in this modern civilization is being influenced by outstanding and creative scientists who, through their research activity, go beyond their existing patterns,” said Teofil Jesionowski, whose title of rector is equivalent to that of a university president in the United States. “In its 100-year history, PUT has awarded this prestigious title to only 43 people.”
PUT is one of FIU’s many partner institutions, a relationship based on an agreement and a mutual desire to work together in a variety of ways. The day honoring Iyengar represented another step toward furthering activities and exchanges between the two universities, Jesionowski added.
Iyengar first caught the attention of researchers and administrators at the Polish university when he visited there as a Fulbright specialist in 2019, at which time he worked with faculty and students on the study “Smart Cities: A Mobile and Social Networking Approach.” From that successful project grew a collaboration with a PUT researcher that has produced two co-authored books and four articles as well as an ongoing learning opportunity for their respective student teams.
PUT doctoral student Konrad Śniatała spent three months at FIU conducting computer science research under the supervision of Iyengar. “Professor Iyengar’s work is cutting edge and in alignment with my own interests," Śniatała explained. “So I asked him if he would serve as my Ph.D. supervisor and he agreed.”
At FIU, those who know Iyengar understand why he is held in such high esteem abroad.
Ph.D. student Yashas Hariprasad has worked with Iyengar on several projects and commends him for starting a mentorship program for disadvantaged students in Bangalore, India.
“The program is just one more way that Dr. Iyengar and his late wife have given back to their home community,” Hariprasad said of the India-born couple.
Alumnus Jerry Miller MA’ 82, MS ’11, Ph.D. ’23, who works in the school of computing and calls Iyengar a mentor, said of him: “Any one or two of Dr. Iyengar’s achievements would have signified a successful career for most people, but Dr. Iyengar is not like most people. He is a man of exceptional energy, drive and intellectual curiosity, with a love of knowledge and a zest for life.”