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Three-peat: UAH associate professor honored by IEEE

HUNTSVILLE – It’s a three-peat for Dr. Vineetha Menon.

An associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Menon was named the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Region 3 Outstanding Young Professional.

This is the third consecutive year that she has been recognized by IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional organization for the advancement of technology. The award was presented at the recent IEEE SoutheastCon in Orlando.

Menon, who is also the director of the Big Data Analytics Lab at UAH, was honored by IEEE Eta Kappa Nu as its Outstanding Young Professional in 2021. In 2022, IEEE Huntsville awarded her the IEEE Huntsville Young Professional of the Year.

This is a golden record in the history of IEEE that an individual has been recognized as the Outstanding Young Professional consecutively for three years (2021-2023) from international to regional levels.

“It’s still unbelievable to me,” she said. “It came as a pleasant surprise. This award is not only a recognition for my research scholarship and a career highlight, but it also establishes UAH as a significant contributor in AI, big data analytics and autonomous systems technology.”

Menon achieved a professional milestone on the same day she was notified about the new IEEE award.

“I got the news that I was tenured, so it was a double celebration,” she said.

A bonus came with the easing of pandemic restrictions: “This is the first time I got to go to the event in person.”

The IEEE Huntsville regional chapter nominated Menon for the 2023 award. IEEE Region 3 is home to organizational units in the southeastern U.S. and Jamaica.

“Every state in IEEE Region 3 sponsors their best candidate. They are competitively evaluated for the best portfolio that satisfies well-rounded scholastic, teaching and service achievements,” Menon said. “Since I won the 2022 IEEE Young Professional of the Year, IEEE Huntsville chapter was already aware of my qualifications, and they reached out to me. It was really nice of the Huntsville chapter.

“I truly appreciate all their efforts in supporting young professionals like me.”

Service to the IEEE Region 3 professional community is one of three components that factor into the awards.

“These Outstanding Young Professional awards are for all-around contributions for research, global leadership and also service to the professional communities and the local communities,” Menon said. “Service to improve STEM education and mentoring young professionals has been a core of my work here at UAH and my lifelong work wherever I’ve been. But it is also the amount of research and teaching and pushing those computer science boundaries to redefine what AI technology can do that has made this recognition unique on its own.

“At UAH we are doing some groundbreaking research on explainable AI and autonomous systems.”

Since 2011, Menon has held global leadership roles and taken part in professional activities in the IEEE, IEEE-HKN and IEEE Women in Engineering communities.

Her recent IEEE awards show that her decade of work has made an impact.

“I’m just doing what I’m good at and what I believe in,” she said. “Eventually, people start noticing the difference it makes in the society. It starts out as a drop in the ocean, but then it slowly builds momentum, and that’s how I’ve gotten here.”

Menon recalled a line from her acceptance speech in 2021:

“Dream big. No dream is too small. If you have the passion, if you have the desire, pursue it. You never know where it takes you in the future.”

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