March 2024 OES Beacon

Who’s who in the IEEE OES (March 2024)

Suleman Mazhar, Harbin Engineering University and Chair TC-Underwater Acoustics

Figure 1. Participating in public outreach and promoting the cause of conservation of finless porpoises and Yangtze river in China

I joined IEEE-OES in 2007 when I participated in my first OCEANS conference in Vancouver, Canada. At that time, I did not have much idea about OES. OCEANS conference was all that I knew about OES-membership at that time and I was really impressed by OES, after discovering so many “Oceans species” all at one place! However, as I progressed through my PhD studies, I noticed that my PhD supervisor (Ura sensei) will usually (rather regularly) be away from his office twice a year; and that had to do with AdCom meetings (at OCEANS again!). That same year, one of our lab members won student poster competition and I came to know about student activities of IEEE-OES.

After finishing PhD in 2009, I took a minor diversion from my PhD theme (of dolphin and whales) and lost my life to monkeys and bats as I moved to Georgetown University (Washington D.C., USA) for a postdoc in auditory neuroscience. However, soon I resumed marine mammal studies and ecological monitoring again as I returned to Pakistan to join a faculty position at GIK Institute and availed a funding from WWF (Worldwide fund for Nature) to study acoustic repertoire of Indus river dolphin in the wild. Indus dolphin conservation work was quite interesting and I spent 1-2 months annually getting tanned during boat surveys in the Indus River. In parallel, as I was working at CSE department, I started mentoring undergraduate students for low-cost AUV development for environmental monitoring. One of such works translated into a conference paper in OCEANS Kobe 2018.

During this time, most of my funded research focused on ICTD (Information & Communication Technologies for Development) and consequently I was not so active in OES. However, in 2017/18, I got HEC (Higher Education Commission Pakistan) and DAAD (Germany) grants for Indus dolphin monitoring and underwater structural health monitoring. Work done during these projects eventually led me to more actively and regularly participate in the OES events. Since then, I have been a part of various activities and committees of IEEE-OES.

Figure 2. Participating in Ocean Noise 2023 in Sanya, discussing challenges posed by anthropogenic noise to the endangered cetaceans

Currently, I am working as a professor in Information and Communication Engineering at Harbin Engineering University and my research focus is deep learning and signal processing applications for environmental monitoring, with particular focus on underwater acoustics, marine mammal conservation and pollution monitoring. In my current position, I am always looking for good students, postdoc fellows and faculty members to join our team at HEU!

I am also actively engaged in cetacean conservation in China and Pakistan and am a member of research and public outreach bodies focused on conservation of endangered species in both countries. As a researcher and an engineer, I am of the opinion that technology can assist in addressing many challenges faced by humanity today, however, we must keep in mind that it is the intent and direction of applying this technology which is important! Role of technology is usually to amplify the good/bad effect and, therefore, we must not lose focus on the actual goal while applying the technology!

I am also technical program committee chair for China Ocean Acoustics conference, which is co-sponsored by IEEE-OES since 2016.  The conference has become not only a flagship academic event but it has also encouraged and mentored young scientists for ICT based innovations in the field of water and marine climate. We shall be holding 3rd edition of this event this year and I welcome you all to join us!

One of the perks of working in academia in general and cetacean conservation in particular is extensive traveling around the world. I have been lucky that I have not only visited many countries but have also spent a good amount of time in many unique cultures and countries such as Japan, USA, China, Germany and South Asia. I have thoroughly enjoyed these cultures and a glimpse of such an experience is shared in Figure. 4. During my free time, I love working on my GPU-machine J!

Figure 3. Visiting an experimental setup and research cruise in Sanya
Figure 4. Participating in tea making ceremony during a social program of a conference in Kyoto
Figure 5. Busy in my favorite pastime: working on my GPU-machine!