Get to Know the Candidates for 2018 IEEE President-Elect

Vincenzo Piuri and Jacek M. Zurada discuss their priorities for the organization

5 June 2017

The annual IEEE election process begins in August, so be sure to check your mailbox then for your ballot. To help you choose the 2018 IEEE president-elect, we interviewed the two candidates, IEEE Fellow Vincenzo Piuri [above, left] and IEEE Life Fellow Jacek M. Zurada, about their priorities and how they would improve IEEE’s products and services.

Editor’s note: Since press time, IEEE Life Fellow José M.F. Moura has received the necessary number of valid voting members’ signatures as a petition candidate for 2018 president-elect. Moura is an electrical engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon and is the university’s associate department head for research and strategic initiatives. He served as the principal investigator of several research grants at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation. He was the 2016 vice president of IEEE Technical Activities and a former member of the IEEE Board of Directors. Read about his other professional achievements on the Carnegie Mellon website and look out for a Q&A interview with Moura in the coming weeks.

Piuri is a professor of intelligent systems and former chair of the information technology department at the University of Milan, as well as an honorary professor at three other universities. His interests include intelligent systems, machine learning, neural networks, pattern recognition, signal and image processing, and digital architectures. He coauthored four books and founded a startup focused on intelligent systems for industrial applications.

Elevated to Fellow in 2001 for “contributions to neural network techniques and embedded digital architectures for industrial applications,” he is a member of IEEE–Eta Kappa Nu, the organization’s honor society. He was 2015 vice president of IEEE Technical Activities, IEEE Division X director/delegate from 2010 to 2012, and president of the IEEE Computational Intelligence Society in 2006 and 2007.

He has been editor in chief of the IEEE Systems Journal since 2013, and he has served on the IEEE Publication Services and Products and IEEE Technical Activities boards as well as on several IEEE committees.

Zurada is director of the Computational Intelligence Laboratory at the University of Louisville, in Kentucky, where he is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and former chair of the department. His work focuses on computational intelligence, machine learning, and image and signal processing. He has served as a consultant to industry and to startups. Zurada has also authored or coauthored three books including the textbook Introduction to Artificial Neural Systems. His research has been cited more than 10,000 times.

Elevated to Fellow in 1996 “for contributions to engineering education in the area of neural networks,” he was elected a foreign member of the Polish Academy of Sciences and has been awarded five honorary professorships.

Zurada was 2014 vice president, IEEE Technical Activities, and president of the IEEE Computational Intelligence Society in 2004 and 2005. He was editor in chief of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks from 1998 to 2003 and chaired the IEEE Technical Activities Board (TAB) periodicals committee in 2010 and 2011.

What would be your top two priorities as IEEE president?

PIURI: My first priority is to nurture both the IEEE members and the scientific and professional community at large. I plan to continue providing high-quality resources, particularly on emerging technologies, as well as specialized topics.

I will promote personalized services and specialized networking opportunities that provide practical knowledge, especially for industry professionals and entrepreneurs. I’ll also further support IEEE Young Professionals and IEEE Women in Engineering. I would like to provide more value to members by offering affordable and sustainable dues to help those in underserved groups and geographic areas as well. I would also expand our cooperation with national associations, and enhance IEEE’s global support for developing public policies and services.

My second priority is to promote cooperation among all IEEE groups as “One IEEE.” I would do so by creating synergies within IEEE, promoting a culture that values diversity, and expanding micro-volunteering opportunities, which allow members to dedicate their services in small increments of time. I would reinforce management and financial transparency to members and ensure full participation and representation of IEEE members and volunteers in decision-making processes.

ZURADA: My first priority will be to better respond to the needs of industry practitioners. Our products, services, and educational offerings have to be more relevant to their jobs and career aspirations.

I will focus on providing members in industry with information through topically organized industry resource centers. Such centers will offer a single point of entry and will help users find quality technical information quickly. They will also allow practioners to continue their education and their lifelong career growth. In concert, I will work toward greater engagement of industry in IEEE.

My other priority will be to continually gauge and respond to all members’ needs. This includes delivery of affordable and high-quality products and services, like journals, magazines, conferences, and industry portals. While IEEE nurtures emerging technical areas and builds communities around them, it needs to offer more career resources for members, who must keep up with advancing technology and maintain their competitiveness in a rapidly evolving career ecosystem.


From your experience as a college professor, how do you think IEEE can better support members in academia?

ZURADA: With more than 4 million documents in the IEEE Xplore Digital Library, our members in academia need better, more intelligent tools to retrieve more than just articles, titles, and abstracts. Supplying our IP users with knowledge offers more value than supplying them with traditionally formatted information. Our members would benefit from productivity tools that use data analytics and are able to answer a technical question or recommend a design or algorithm to fit their specifications. While this goal may appear somewhat distant, it’s important to realize that five years ago we could not make inquiries with a smartphone and get instant answers as we do today. I will lead IEEE in the direction of offering better search tools for research and design.

Our members in academia would also benefit from quick information exchanges, especially in emerging technologies. As we nurture communities working in new technical areas, IEEE needs to continue to expand our support for sharing technical information and for networking. This includes facilitating inexpensive Web-based workshops and conferences.

PIURI: IEEE should provide more services for research and education. IEEE must continue to be the trusted source of high-quality knowledge, and facilitate the sharing of data and algorithms for research, bolstering its reputation as the hub for exchanging and publishing ideas, and networking with experts. We should promote interaction between academia and industry. Real-world problems can stimulate academics, and their results can advance industry.

IEEE should also increase educational material and syllabi, including on topics such as engineering ethics, social implications of technology, standards development, and sustainable technology. These will not only facilitate the activities of members in academia but contribute to educating the future generation of engineers and have a wider impact on industry and society as well.


How has living in Europe helped shape your view of engineering? How could IEEE better serve members in different geographic regions?

PIURI: Engineering is an attitude of mind, from detecting a problem to deploying and maintaining its solution. This is the same all over the world. However, local cultures provide unique perspectives and richness.

My experience and institutional roles have given me the good fortune of interacting with academics, professionals, and students from different geographic regions, understanding and appreciating their varied needs and perspectives. I grew up in and live in Italy, but I have also spent several periods working on my research and collaborating with people in the United States, Canada, and countries throughout Europe, North Africa, Asia, Oceania, and South America. I am also the coordinator of computer science/electrical engineering international academic exchanges for my university—which finds me interacting with colleagues and students from different continents.

IEEE can better serve members and the scientific and professional communities by respecting and appreciating diversity, and identifying—with the help of local IEEE groups and other organizations—sustainable products and services designed for each area.

ZURADA: My experience with moving from Europe to the United States in the 1980s demonstrated that there is one engineering profession, no matter where you go. Since we all speak the same language, my transition from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, to the University of Louisville went smoothly.

Furthermore, working for three years in Asia exposed me to non-Western cultures and taught me that the global diversity of IEEE is one of its most powerful assets. IEEE offers a common platform to contribute to the profession and to help members advance their careers regardless of their address.

Having said this, I will strive to provide equal opportunity to current and future members from under­­­­­­privileged and underrepresented groups. This includes women, students, and young professionals, and those who aspire for professional growth in less advanced economies.


Ethical concerns are being raised about artificial intelligence, a field in which both of you work. What role should IEEE play to ensure ethical considerations are part of its development?

ZURADA: Ethical concerns in AI are quickly gaining importance due to its rapid growth. Progress in AI is bringing increasing societal benefits in human-computer interaction, transportation, and robotics and intelligent systems. As AI becomes entwined in the fabric of life with applications in smart homes, health care, social services, and the environment, the public expectation is that these technologies will be secure, safe, and transparent.

As an important contributor to AI-based technologies, IEEE must be a key player in this area. Last year, IEEE launched its Ethically Aligned Design report, and I’m very supportive of its initial document. As president, I will embrace and champion its recommendations.

PIURI: Technology pervades our daily life, providing us with conveniences but also raising ethical concerns. This applies not only to AI but also to other technical areas.

IEEE should strongly promote awareness of these concerns to the general public and encourage educators to make ethics a part of university curricula as well as include it in continuing education and preuniversity programs. We must also promote ethics-by-design methodologies, support professionals in industry and government on the subject of ethical considerations, and increase standards activities in this area. IEEE should be the reference point for policymakers on ethics in our technical fields.


Each of you has served as editor in chief of an IEEE publication and has written numerous articles. How can IEEE better assist editors and authors?

PIURI: IEEE can better support editors by continuing to improve the system for manuscript management, facilitating simpler navigation tools, and enriching automatic support for choosing reviewers—which will help editors select reviewers based on their credentials. We must also further improve anti-plagiarism tools.

To support authors, recommendation tools should be introduced to identify relevant IEEE literature. And we need to improve data and algorithm repositories supporting experimentation and comparisons, language-proofing services, and journal-impact analyses.

ZURADA: IEEE’s periodicals are considered a hallmark of technical excellence. I feel privileged to have served as an editor in chief of one of our transactions and later as chair of three committees: transactions, periodicals, and periodicals review. Our authors and readers justifiably expect a shorter submission-to-publication time.

Realizing these needs, as vice president of IEEE Technical Activities, I launched the “Train the Trainer” workshops aimed at continuous recruitment and training of reviewers and associate editors. In addition, if elected president, I will work with editors on publishing reproducible research that connects to data repositories. I will also promote editorial policies that increase article relevance for industry practitioners and embrace nontraditional works dealing with the impact of technology on society.


Why did you join IEEE? What has been your most memorable moment as a member of the organization?

ZURADA: I joined IEEE more than 30 years ago because of my fascination with the profession. My membership opened up abundant opportunities for participation in conferences and publishing, and engaging with societies and boards. All of this has encouraged me to continue to contribute. I want to give back to the profession that has given me so much.

Volunteering for IEEE has afforded me many memorable experiences, because I have always felt the trust, collegiality, and professionalism of the organization. One of my favorite events is the annual IEEE Honors Ceremony, which validates the societal impact of the technologies we champion. The ceremony highlights the ways in which we touch people’s lives as we advance technology for humanity.

PIURI: I learned about IEEE from my academic supervisor when I was pursuing my master’s degree, and volunteered to help with a conference she was organizing. I liked feeling part of and serving the community. As tired as I was after running around the whole day taking care of logistical problems, I was proud to be part of what was taking place.

The enthusiasm, service, and participation of IEEE volunteers are what first attracted me. The contributions of every member make IEEE what it is. While earning my Ph.D., I began to appreciate IEEE as the premier forum for research and its dissemination, and for developing applications for technology.

Since then, I have served in many volunteer capacities, always with the same enthusiasm of that first day. Many moments have been memorable, but those that have been particularly rewarding are ones in which I felt I could make a difference by providing better service to our community.


Why should members vote for you?

PIURI: I will focus on nurturing IEEE members and our scientific and professional community, and I will promote a holistic vision for “One IEEE.”

I feel that I have the technical background, academic and industrial experience, management and leadership skills, genuine global perspective, and deep and broad understanding of IEEE activities and operations to lead our efforts in this direction. I also will work to increase visibility of the organization worldwide.

I have a positive attitude, with the ability to listen to people, valuing and respecting those from all backgrounds. I care for those in underserved groups and geographic areas. And I will focus on the needs of all individuals, catalyzing members’ efforts and aspirations, stimulating cooperation and full participation in decision-making processes, and working in a collegial way to achieve consensus. I will also strongly promote transparency and trust.

I envision an IEEE where everyone in our global scientific and professional community finds more value and wants to be a proud member of an organization in which they are nurtured and appreciated.

ZURADA: IEEE is a multifaceted, global organization that needs a president with a unique set of leadership, technical vision, and people skills. As a Life Fellow who has held top IEEE leadership positions on three major boards, chaired six TAB committees, and been a society president, I believe I have the vision, knowledge, and experience to take the leading role. I communicate well, form partnerships, and support innovation.

I had multicultural exposure in my educational upbringing in Poland and Switzerland, followed by my 30-year professional career in the United States. I spent sabbaticals at Princeton and leading universities in Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore. In addition to English, I speak Polish, German, French, and Russian.

This experience has significantly shaped my outlook and given me the confidence and skills to be an effective leader of the increasingly global IEEE.

To learn more about the candidates, visit their websites: vincenzopiuri.org and jacekzurada.org.

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