Cool STEM Job: Professor of Computer Science

Tennessee is a great place to pursue a STEM career. But don’t just take our word for it. To inspire the state’s next generation of technological leaders to pursue STEM careers, the TSIN is collecting profiles of people already working in STEM in Tennessee.

Meet Santosh.

Dr. Santosh Kumar, University of Memphis

  1. Location: Memphis
  2. santosh_kumarJob title, Company: Associate Professor of Computer Science, University of Memphis
  3. In 25 words or fewer, what do you do? Conduct research to develop innovative mobile health systems for monitoring and improving human health, supervise student research, and teach Computer Science courses.
  4. The best thing about your job: I can envision new ways of improving society, work with the best minds in the world to execute my vision, and train young scientists to make our world a better place.
  5. Tools you work with to do your job: Mathematics and Computers, especially productivity software such as word processor and spreadsheet, analytics software such as Matlab, and programming languages such as Java and C.
  6. Path you took to get this job: Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science followed by a Master’s and Ph.D. in Computer Science. Minors in Mathematics, Operations Research, and Entrepreneurship.
  7. Favorite subjects in school: Math, Science, and Economics.
  8. Subjects and skills from school that you use in your job now: Mathematics, English, Public Speaking.
  9. Advice for students who want to do what you do: 

A professor is very much like an entrepreneur. Unlike in research labs where the problems a scientists works on may be guided by the problems facing the government or the industry, the research agenda for a professor is largely unconstrained and left to the imagination, creativity, and passion of the individual.

To execute their research agenda, they build a team of researchers from across the nation (sometimes the entire world) and train students to become tomorrow’s engineers and scientists. Quite often, they end up working with the best minds in their respective disciplines. Funding is usually available to support the procurement of resources and for supporting students who will work on the research projects. If the project is successful and has commercial potential, the university system permits and encourages commercialization. In several cases, professors take time off to start their own companies and return to the university to initiate new research after the start-up stabilizes or is acquired.

Research they publish in prestigious venues is appreciated worldwide and bears the name of its author. For those who are usually curious and/or love intellectual challenges, the life of a professor provides intellectual satisfaction on a daily basis because most days are spent learning about latest developments, developing the next generation of technology, solving intellectually challenging research problems, and thus pushing the boundaries of what the mankind knows today.

In terms of job profile, a professor does not report directly to anyone, so it is the right choice of career for those who do not want to have a boss. The downside is that you must define the work for yourself. Additionally, since you would not have someone imposing work hours, you will need to develop self-discipline. Despite such freedom, most professors who are active in research end up working 70+ hours each week. Most of this time goes into defining the research agenda, writing proposals for funding, doing research, writing papers, mentoring students, reviewing papers for scientific conferences and journals, attending conferences in various parts of the world, and giving talks at conferences and other universities.

Due to its attractiveness, the job of professor is usually one of the toughest jobs to get. Earning a PhD from a reputed research lab and establishing a reputation in the scientific community by consistently publishing in the world’s most prestigious scientific venues are some proven methods to increase the chances of getting a faculty position in a major research university. Once you land the job, a passion for researching socially relevant problems increases your chances of succeeding in this career.

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