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Dr Aditya Kanade: Making hand-held computation and computer education accessible to all

The current age is called the “Information Age”. People want “information” on their fingertips. Information here may mean a variety of things: mails and messages, news, financial transactions, railway bookings and more. Some people may also need more specialized or personalized forms of information. However, in a developing country like India, not everyone can afford a personal computer with internet access. On the other hand, India has also seen a remarkable proliferation of mobile phones across much of the society, and across most age groups. The new generation of such phones, called smartphones, not only provide regular internet access, but also a platform for users to create new programs (popularly called “App”s) for specialized and personalized services. Dr. Aditya Kanade, scientist and assistant professor of Computer Science in Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore is working on the design and implementation issues of smartphone apps. In his words, the widespread adoption of smartphones is a step at democratizing information access.

Dr. Kanade completed his graduation in Computer Science from College of Engineering, Pune, after which he joined IIT Bombay for his PhD. His doctoral thesis was about optimizing the performance of “compilers” -- the component of computers which transform source code written by programmers and engineers into signals which the machine can interpret. Afterwards, he had a postdoctoral tenure at University of Pennsylvania, following which he joined IISc as an Assistant Professor in 2009. He is the convenor of the Software Engineering and Analysis Lab (SEAL) and advises 5 PhD students as well as 5 Masters' Degree students. During his tenure at IISc, he has received research fellowships, awards and grants from companies like IBM, Microsoft Research India and Mozilla Corporation. He collaborates with other professors in India and institutes abroad, like the Max Plank Institute in Germany.

Dr. Kanade's says that a main premise of his work is  that research should be based upon problems that actually affect people, and should aim to solve the problems realistically. Accordingly, his students spend considerable efforts going through data, trying to figure out the most significant issues that need to be addressed. According to him, his most important contribution so far has been his work on reliability analysis of Android applications on smartphones along with his PhD student Pallavi Maiya. The work aims at detecting and fixing errors that sometimes arise when an application runs on multiple threads of computation on Android platforms. He is also currently looking into security aspects of these programs with another PhD student, Ashish Mishra.

Another of Dr. Kanade's main interests is about improving student experiences of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) – an attempt at making world-class education from the best universities available to all interested students of the world. More specifically, he is focussing on the courses based on computer programming, which is becoming part and parcel of school education in most developed and many developing countries, including some school education boards in India. His aim is to automatically evaluate programming assignments submitted by students, and also  automatically generate examples and exercises of varying degrees of difficulty. He is in touch with various companies who provide software platforms to host these courses, and they are willing to deploy the techniques which his research group are trying to come up with.

Apart from research, another important component of Dr Kanade's work in IISc is teaching. He teaches courses related to the theory of programming as well as practical aspects. He told us that he always attempts to keep his courses up-to-date with the latest developments in the related academic field all over the world. He is considered an outstanding teacher in the department. Indeed, recently he has been awarded the Prof. Priti Shankar Teaching Excellence Award for 2014 by IISc, named after late Prof Priti Shankar of the Computer Science Department- who is widely considered as one of the most inspiring teachers in the history of the institute.

Apart from academic activities like research and teaching, Dr Kanade also takes a keen interest in wildlife photography. On his personal homepage, you can find photos and articles by him, based on his travels in forested areas. Most of these were done during his PhD days in IIT Bombay. These days, as a busy professor in IISc he doesn't find enough time to pursue his interests but hopes to resume his activities some day, given that the IISc campus has substantial amount of densely forested areas, and a large population of birds, insects and small animals.

About Dr Kanade

Information about Dr Kanade's work can be found on his personal webpage: http://www.iisc-seal.net/kanade