Lav’s Biography

Lav R. Varshney was born in Syracuse, New York on October 28, 1982. He received the B. S. degree with honors in electrical and computer engineering (magna cum laude) from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York in 2004. He received the S. M., E. E., and Ph. D. degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge in 2006, 2008, and 2010, respectively, where his theses received the E. A. Guillemin thesis award and the J.-A. Kong award honorable mention.

He is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Coordinated Science Laboratory, with further affiliations in Computer Science, Neuroscience, Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, Digital Agriculture, and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, all at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

He was a principal research scientist at Salesforce Research, Palo Alto, CA during 2019-2020, focused on AI ethics and AI for Good. He was a research staff member at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY from 2010 until 2013, where he conceptualized and led the development and deployment of the Chef Watson computational creativity system to worldwide recognition. He was a postdoctoral associate and research assistant in the Signal Transformation and Information Representation Group in the Research Laboratory of Electronics, a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow, and a research assistant in the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems at MIT. He was an instructor in the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in Spring 2009 and a teaching assistant in Fall 2006. He was a visitor at the Laboratoire de Théorie de l’Information and the Laboratoire de Théorie des Communications at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland in 2006, a visiting scientist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, New York in 2005, a research engineering intern at Syracuse Research Corporation, North Syracuse, New York during 2002-2003 and an engineering intern at Sensis Corporation, DeWitt, New York in 2001. His research interests include information and coding theory, artificial intelligence, statistical signal processing, data science, sociotechnical systems, neuroscience, and creativity.

Dr. Varshney is a member of Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, and Sigma Xi, and a senior member of IEEE. He was a founding member of the IEEE Special Interest Group on Big Data in Signal Processing and served on the Shannon Centenary Committee of the IEEE Information Theory Society.  He currently serves on the advisory board of the AI XPRIZE.  He received the IBM Faculty Award in 2014 and was a finalist for the Bell Labs Prize in 2014 and 2016.  He received the 2015 Data for Good Exchange Paper Award, a best paper award at the 2012 SRII Global Conference, the Capocelli Prize at the 2006 Data Compression Conference, the Best Student Paper Award at the 2003 IEEE Radar Conference, and was a winner of the IEEE 2004 Student History Paper Contest. His students have also received several best paper awards.  His work appears in the anthology, The Best Writing on Mathematics 2014 (Princeton University Press) and he was selected to present at the 2017 World Science Festival.  He has appeared on the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent and has been named a Center for Advanced Study Fellow at the University of Illinois.