Meet Dr Gokul S. Krishnan
Aditi Jain || 12 Oct 2022

Technology is now impacting every sphere of our lives but you would agree that one of its most powerful impacts is in the area of Healthcare where it is literally saving lives! This emerging area, that combines technology and healthcare, called Healthcare informatics is helping to provide better and timely care to patients by helping healthcare workers with patient data management, disease diagnosis etc. Dr Gokul S Krishnan, a research scientist at the Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, believes that the full potential of AI and Data Science in healthcare has not yet been utilized to help our healthcare personnel and is therefore working in this area among others to help making a significant difference. Let’s get to know about his journey as a researcher.

Gokul was born to a banker mother and a writer father in Thiruvalla, a town in God’s Own Country- Kerala. Due to the transferable nature of his mother’s job, he lived his childhood in various cities and had a chance to experience various cultures. Gokul was interested in computers from an early age and decided to pursue computer engineering after schooling. He joined College of Engineering, Chengannur under Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) in Kerala for pursuing his B.Tech degree. College life was fun for Gokul where he widened his scope by being a part of various extracurricular activities apart from just focusing on academics. He led and was part of various tech-related societies and also remembers building a placement portal for his college with his friends as part of a project. Apart from the curricula, he remembers being part of organizing various tech and cultural events. He found pleasure in learning new things like building web pages and web apps which led to him participating in BlackBerry Jam Asia, a BlackBerry 10 OS developer conference in Thailand in 2012. He fondly remembers his app development days and has ten BlackBerry 10 applications to his name, in the BlackBerry App World, out of which three were featured in an elite category published by BlackBerry. Being part of BlackBerry Dev Group Kerala and other technical societies, Gokul delivered several talks in various venues on web and mobile app development. In the final year of engineering, he got a campus placement offer from TCS, however decided that academics is the right career path for him, as by then he realized his passion in learning new things and the delights about sharing what he learnt.

In the next phase of his academic journey, Gokul joined for pursuing M.Tech degree at Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) university, Vellore. Here Gokul remembers the interesting but hectic academic life, though he admits that the minor projects for various subjects indeed equipped and enriched his knowledge and skills. He got inspired and fascinated in the area of web semantics which led to his Master Thesis being on a project in the same area. Reading various research papers in various fields as part of his projects widened his thought process and led to a realization that there is so much more fascinating stuff to learn and pursue. In 2015, Gokul presented his first international conference paper at Cambridge, UK and says that the exposure he received steered his life more towards research. The M.Tech degree, however, could not satiate his thirst for knowledge and so he started applying for Ph.D. programs towards the end of his Masters without bothering to attend any campus placement interviews.

Gokul believes that he was lucky to get admission in the Surathkal - based National Institute of Technology Karnataka (NITK) where he carried out his research under Dr. Sowmya Kamath S at Department of IT. He was fortunate to work in a lab that worked at the intersection of informatics and healthcare domain. As part of his PhD, he put forth various approaches for building clinical decision support systems for assisting healthcare professionals based on both structured and unstructured electronic health data using techniques in Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing. He published international conference and journal articles on mortality and disease risk estimation strategies using both structured and unstructured electronic health records and population health analytical models using social network data. Gokul enjoyed working and discussing alongside his peers and loved attending various technical events and conferences as part of his research scholar life. He remembers his PhD journey as quite fruitful and productive as he got a chance to learn a huge bunch of stuff in and outside his area of research.

Towards the end of his PhD, Gokul aspired to go abroad for a Post-doctoral Fellowship but alas COVID-19 pandemic struck the world! Though his dream of doing research abroad was shattered, Gokul got a chance to carry out his post-doctoral research at the top ranked technical institute of the country – IIT Madras. After joining as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and AI (RBCDSAI) at IIT Madras, he carried out research for various projects under the supervision of Prof. Balaraman Ravindran. Gokul says he is fortunate to have met with policy makers and bureaucrats with regards to various projects and to have contributed to several real-world impactful projects. He has also worked under Dr Gitakrishnan Ramadurai in contributing to RBCDSAI’s project in collaboration with Tamil Nadu Health Systems Project (TNHSP) and 108 Ambulance to optimize ambulance allocation. He also briefly contributed to the Tamil Nadu COVID-19 war room by being a part of the pilot data analytics team from IIT Madras that helped the TN government during the second wave of the pandemic.

Continuing here after his postdoc stint, Gokul, now a Research Scientist at RBCDSAI, is working on various projects in the areas of Natural Language Processing, Computer Vision and Responsible AI. Proud to be a part of RBCDSAI family, he is thankful to have got opportunity to work under an eminent academician/scientist like Prof. Ravindran and also says that the place offers a lot of learning curve and opportunities in the area of AI and Data Science with know-how to make it useful for the society. 

Gokul particularly believes that it is only with right implementation that we can leverage the full potential of AI to make it useful for the real world. He also cautions that we have the responsibility to ensure that technology fairly benefits not just all of humankind alike but also to nature and all other life forms on the earth. An amateur singer and a poet, he loves to read fiction, watch and analyse movies and web-series. He also spends time helping his father with his charitable trust - Sahayahastha. The guy considers every day as a new challenge and strongly believes to grab every learning opportunity that comes his way!

To know more about his research visit his webpage.