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Electrical engineering / New department head not new to SDSU

Siddharth “Sid” Suryanarayanan
Siddharth “Sid” Suryanarayanan

When India native Siddharth “Sid” Suryanarayanan stepped into Crothers Engineering Hall at South Dakota State University for a job interview in late 2019, the electrical engineering researcher and educator felt he was on familiar ground.

He has been connected to campus for several years thanks to collaborative research with assistant professor Timothy Hansen and associate professor Reinaldo Tonkoski.

Effective June 22, Sid, as he prefers to be known, became not only a collaborator with Hansen and Tonkoski, he is now their boss. Sid was selected from among three finalists as the head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. George Hamer has been serving as acting head since Steve Hietpas returned into a faculty role following the 2017-18 school year.

Sid was a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

He joined the CSU faculty in August 2010, gained tenure in July 2014 and received early promotion to professor in July 2019. Prior to CSU, Sid was an assistant professor at Colorado School of Mines in Golden from January 2008 to August 2010 and an assistant scholar scientist at Florida State University from March 2005 to December 2007.

Sid had research positions at Arizona State in Tempe, where he earned his master’s (2001) and doctorate (2004).


Power system connection

Sid’s background is in electrical power systems engineering. Hansen and Tonkoski share interests in power electronics, the smart grid and power systems. They are collaborating on an U.S. Department of Energy study to model power systems that integrate large amounts of renewable energy sources through the power grid.

Hansen and Sid also each wrote book chapters in a 2016 electric power engineering publication.

Hansen said he is excited to have Sid heading his department because “he thinks the disciplines of electrical engineering, computer engineering and computer science, along with statistics and data science, are poised to be big drivers in the next couple decades of technological innovation, harnessing the data revolution.

“Sid’s background in computer- and data-driven applications to systems engineering is a perfect mesh of these cross-cutting disciplines and he has the expertise to spearhead department and cross-college efforts to be national leaders in these fields for research and educating the next-generation workforce.”

Sid said he was interested in this position because it provides an opportunity in administration and “I have some strong collaboration with the Lohr College even before I considered applying for this position. Why do this from so far away when I could do this in the same building?”


Challenges foreseen

While he intends to keep his research active at SDSU, he notes, “My first responsibility is administering the department. Enrollment and retention of students will take my primary interest.”

Sid sees those issues to be the department’s biggest challenge. “The forecasts of a decrease in traditional enrollments in the region, coupled with expectations of budgetary adjustments, will pose a challenge to the department. But I am confident that, with collective input from the department faculty, staff and the various stakeholders, we will tide over these challenges.”

Fall 2019 enrollment was 298 students (electrical engineering, 135; computer science, 163), which was 20% of the college’s enrollment of 1,480 students. A year, earlier those numbers were 152 (electrical) and 201 (computer science) for 23% of the college’s 1,526 students. In fall 2017, the department had 399 undergraduates and 25% of the college’s 1,602 students.


Department research a strength

On the other hand, he sees strengths in having continuously accredited programs—electrical engineering since 1936 and computer science since 2005.

Additional strengths are the focused areas of research that have great potential for impacting the region and beyond, he said. With 20 years of research experience, Sid said, “I can offer support to younger faculty; let them take the reins and I can be a senior personnel, a co-PI (principal investigator) on grants with energy management.”

He said his background in systems engineering—coordinating an array of factors in order to reach an objective—translates well into any research discipline.

Through his research career, Sid has generated $2.1 million in externally funded projects as PI with $1.7 million of that strictly earmarked to him. For externally funded projects in which Sid served as co-PI, he has generated $1.5 million with $281,000 of that tagged to him. His work was featured in the National Science Foundation’s Green Revolution video series.


Brings fresh perspective

Dean Bruce Berdanier said Sid will bring “a fresh leadership perspective of the opportunities for the integration of education and research in electrical engineering and computer science.

“I am especially excited by his knowledge of current trends in electrical and computer engineering and computer science as well as his past research success and his experience in administering a successful campuswide center on wind energy research and education. 

“Finally, Dr. Suryanarayanan is recognized internationally and will be a leader for the Lohr College of Engineering in growing our international student engineering community.” Berdanier said.

Sid leads a department with 14 faculty members (six computer science/eight electrical engineering) and three support staff.

Sid and his wife Andrea, originally of Cheyenne, Wyoming, have a 3-year-old-daughter, Prianka.