Rajagopal Venkat

Computer Science Ph.D. Candidate, Washington University in St. Louis
rajagopal@wustl.edu

I am a Ph.D. candidate at Washington University in St. Louis, advised by Dr. Yevgeniy Vorobeychik. My research interests are genetic privacy, adversarial machine learning, complex network models and natural language processing. My work in genetic privacy is in collaboration with the GetPreCiSe center.

"There are lies, there are damned lies and there are statistics." Mark Twain, quoting somebody else.
"Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain." Arthur Weasley


Education

Washington University in St. Louis

Ph.D.

Computer Science

Advisor : Dr. Yevgeniy Vorobeychik

August 2018 - Present

Washington University in St. Louis

M.S.

Computer Science
Granted Jan 2021

Vanderbilt University

Ph.D. (partial coursework)

Computer Science

Advisor : Dr. Yevgeniy Vorobeychik

August 2017 - August 2018

Shiv Nadar University

Bachelor of Technology

Major: Computer Science

Minor: Mathematics (emph. Graph Theory, Complex Networks)

August 2013 - May 2017

Research

I have been fortunate enough to work on a variety of problems spanning several research domains during my PhD. A lot of my work involved humans in the loop (i.e. Turk experiments etc.). This being research, some projects - of course - yielded nothing worth reporting in a paper, yet many lessons to learn from. Please do get in touch with me, should any of my work pique your interest.



Projects


Privacy in Genomic Data Beacons
Heuristic approaches to mitigating membership-inference attacks on genomic data beacons, with formal privacy guarantees and minimal impact to the utility of the beacon.

Genomic Reidentification Risk
We evaluate the risk of reidentification in a database of SNPs based on individuals’ facial images. Use DNNs to learn phenotypes from images, then probabilistically match to genomes by predicting phenotypes from them. To mitigate such an attack, we use adversarial examples. This work was accepted to Science Advances.

Topic Modeling (Semantic Cover)
To overcome certain shortcomings of probabilistic topic modeling on short-text datasets, we developed a deterministic method that leverages semantic similarity and word embeddings. This work was presented at *SEM 2019.

Community Detection
We develop a scalable community-detection algorithm that fares well on ground-truth evaluations for weighted, directed real-life networks. Arxiv preprint referenced below.


Publications/Preprints


Re-Identification of Individuals in Genomic Databases using Public Face Images Rajagopal Venkatesaramani, Bradley Malin and Yevgeniy Vorobeychik. Science Advances, Vol 7, Issue 47, 17 Nov 2021. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abg3296

A Semantic Cover Approach to Topic Modeling. Rajagopal Venkatesaramani, Douglas Downey, Bradley Malin and Yevgeniy Vorobeychik. Proceedings of the Eighth Joint Conference on Lexical and Computational Semantics (*SEM), pages 92-102

Community Detection by Information Flow Simulation Rajagopal Venkatesaramani and Yevgeniy Vorobeychik. Arxiv [cs.SI] 1805.04920, 2018

Teaching

A teacher's job is not to teach, but to make the students learn.

My teaching philosophy is one of fostering a learner-centric classroom model, with an added focus on creating materials which capture and retain attention using sound design principles and visual cues. I firmly believe that CS education should be accessible to everyone, and to this end, I plan to develop introductory material, introducing the uninitiated learner to programmatic thinking, rather than any particular programming language. Learn more about my philosophy, and find some resources for presentation-design at the dedicated page below!

Teaching Page


Personal

TLDR; Musician | Literature Aficionado | Coffee Snob | Petrolhead | Aviation Enthusiast


My story begins on the 23rd of February, 1995 in the tiny town of Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu in India. Soon thereafter, we moved to the capital city of New Delhi, for better work opportunities presented themselves to both my parents - my father chose to pursue accounts despite a background in Physics, and my mother found joy in teaching Mathematics. However, during my school years, I was anything but studious. Not that I did not enjoy my subjects - we had exceptionally good teachers as well - but I enjoyed not being in class (especially without official blessing) far more. Instead, I would spend my time indulging in every extra-curricular activity the school had to offer, or hiding in the music room practicing in a hard-to-spot corner, much to the annoyance of my teachers and the amusement of our Principal who resembled Dumbledore in his everlasting calm. Throughout school, I would repeatedly quote the words of Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, "If it's a good idea, go ahead and do it. It's much easier to apologize than to seek permission." Little did my family of educators expect me to work towards becoming one in the future.

Growing up in Delhi is an aspect of my life I'm deeply grateful for; the city is a melting pot of cultures - cultures spanning 1.3 billion people. The result is an endearing sort of mess - nothing works the way it is supposed to, nothing is where you'd expect it to be, nothing is predictable, and yet life is perfectly normal for the average dweller. Ordo ab Chao. Residents of Delhi thus tend to be quite creative with everyday solutions, and function on what is a rather untranslatable term, jugaad - use only what you have, but get the job done anyway. It is an attitude one develops over time, as Delhi holds your hand and teaches you fortitude.

The four years of my undergraduate degree at Shiv Nadar University were truly transformative, both academically and otherwise. During this time, having a peer group that was motivated to excel gave us all an environment apt for exploration. In addition, the university is one of the very few institutes in India that actively fund undergraduate research, and offer a Major/Minor program. As I was introduced to graph theoretic models in my CS curriculum, I had my "Eureka!" moment, and chose to study the field in depth, which eventually led to a minor in Mathematics with a focus on complex networks. I also managed to acquire significant teaching experience as the primary instructor for classes of 20-30 students over 3 semesters, as part of the university's Learning and Academic Support Center. By junior year, having also interned with leading tech firms, I was fairly convinced that academia was where I wanted to be. A few years in, I have no regrets. As my advisor puts it, "it feels right".

Outside the lab, people who interact with me know me for a few different reasons, primarily that I am a musician. I've trained in Carnatic (Indian Classical) vocals since the age of 5, I taught myself half a dozen instruments, I beatbox and I compose (including for short films). At SNU, I helped establish the university's orchestra, and we even managed to pull off a performance of Mozart's 40th symphony. My evenings were usually spent experimenting with different genres and fooling around with instruments that didn't necessarily belong in them. My playlists, as a result, are far better-organized than my research folder.

My grandfather was a major influence growing up, and I can attribute most of my current interests to him in some way. Chief of these is a deep-rooted love for literature, poetry and good oration. An English and Tamil teacher himself (and Physics, but that's for another story), he introduced me to the great authors of yesteryear at a fairly young age. I hold the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the poetry of John Keats and Shakespeare's sonnets especially close to my heart. My own poetry (for the sake of contrast or casual reading) can be found on my blog.

I share a passion for anything with an engine in it - while at some point, everyone has been fascinated with airplanes and cars, I pride myself in collecting bits of information about them that in all probability will never come in handy. I hit the road every chance I can, and my ideal weekend is driving to a quiet camp site and getting lost in a good book. My airplane geekdom has taken me down the addictive path of flight simulation. My other addiction happens to be to coffee, and not just as a result of being in grad-school. Being from a Tamil family, I started drinking filter coffee before I started eating solid food!