Series to Highlight Women in Signal Processing: Dr. Behnaz Ghoraani

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Series to Highlight Women in Signal Processing: Dr. Behnaz Ghoraani

Yaffi Spodek - Florida Atlantic University

Behnaz GhoraaniDr. Behnaz Ghoraani is an Associate Professor and the founder and director of the Biomedical Signal and Image Analysis lab at the Department of Computer & Electrical Engineering at Florida Atlantic University (FAU). Before joining FAU, she was an Assistant Professor at the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology (2012-2016). Dr. Ghoraani’s research has primarily focused on generating clinically relevant engineering solutions to tackle significant bottlenecks in data analytics with an emphasis on computer-aided clinical decision making, long-term and continuous health monitoring, remote and personalized therapeutic management, non-stationary and multidimensional signal analysis, adaptive signal feature extraction. Her research received the best paper awards of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society and the Gordon K. Moe Young Investigator Award. Dr. Ghoraani has over 70 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers, one book, two book chapters, and two patents. Her research has been funded by research grants from the National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation including the NSF CAREER award in 2020, and the Florida Department of Health.

We approached her with a few questions:

Q. Who or what inspired you to enter the field of engineering and signal processing?

I always enjoyed solving problems, and engineering seemed like a great blend of challenging problems, innovation, and an opportunity to contribute to society. Fascinated by watching doctors since I was a child, I decided to focus on research and studies specifically focused on biomedical applications of electrical and computer engineering, where I felt the field combined my passion for engineering and medicine with my desire to help people. 

Q. Why did you decide to pursue a career in academia vs. industry or government?

Being in academia is like the best of everything. You get to be an educator, a researcher, and an innovator. I find working in academia to be rewarding, as I am privileged to work with students and train them to become future leaders. I also see my research lab as a small startup company where I take a novel idea and transform it into something that could potentially help many people around the world. My research lab is a small company where I develop my own ideas, bring funding to support the implementation of the ideas, and recruit and work with students to make them a reality. It brings an opportunity for me to collaborate with leaders around the world. 

Q. What do you find most rewarding in your professional career?

I enjoy taking an active role in encouraging Women in Engineering. I served as the Chair of the Toronto WIE Section (2008-11) where I organized a group of volunteers to lead WIE activities and had a reputation of overachieving in delivering engineering professional and community events. I served twice as the Chair of the IEEE WIE of Canada (2010–12), where I directed the IEEE WIE volunteer team across Canada, and organized informational and technical seminars and panel discussions to empower diversity in engineering. In 2011, my team and I organized the 1st IEEE Canada WIE National Conference (IEEE WIENC), the first avenue to provide female researchers, students, and professionals with a valuable opportunity to network, exchange ideas, and foster new collaborations. Since 2018, I have acted as the Chair of the IEEE Young Professionals in the SPS, where I work with the Young Professionals committee and organize workshops, seminars, and panel discussions at different IEEE SPS conferences. I also serve as Associate Editor of the IEEE Signal Processing Newsletter, where I publish a monthly interview series highlighting women and Young Professionals in signal processing. In addition, I have served as a program committee member and technical program coordinator for several IEEE conferences including IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Conference (EMBC) 2020 and IEEE Life Sciences (2018, 2019).   

Q. What has been your greatest challenge?

Working in academia comes with a unique set of challenges, but those same challenges are the parts of my career that excite and inspire me the most. As a researcher, you have to always remain focused, self-organized, resourceful, and hard-working, and that is what makes me even more in love with what I do as a job, or one may say my passion!

Q. As you reflect back on your career, what advice would you give to women who are interested in entering the field? 

Mentorship plays a big role in leading your career to success. Since women are a minority in the engineering and computer science field, they may feel isolated and not seek mentorship. As you excel in your education and technical background, expand and establish a network of mentors. Volunteering with IEEE has helped to advance my career significantly. It helped me to find a network of people who cheered for my success and inspired me to do my best. When I was looking for my first job, I met engineers who mentored me on how to make my job application look different and better than the others. As I was working, they mentored me on how to deal with the challenges that I faced at work and self-advocate for that promotion that I deserved. This is what I truly believe in: book lovers join book clubs; food lovers join cooking clubs; athletes join fitness clubs. We, engineers, need our engineering club, and that is IEEE for me and my fellow IEEE volunteers.

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