Santosh S. Venkatesh


Santosh S. Venkatesh received the B.Tech. with Honors in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India, in 1981, and the Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, in 1986.  Disconcerted by his discovery that doctoral students are expected to leave their parent institutions eventually, he absconded to the opposite coast of the United States and joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania where he holds the titular post of Professor of Electrical and Systems Engineering, is the current Chair of the Faculty Grievance Commission, and has served as Chair of the Universitys Faculty Senate.  He has haunted the corridors at Penn since then excepting for visiting forays to Caltech, Bell Labs, Siemens Corporate Research, the Helsinki Institute of Technology, Aalto University, Microsoft Research, and Ashoka University.


His research interests are in pure and applied probability, applied mathematics, information theory, machine learning, neural computation, and mathematical economics though what he really likes doing is flipping coins.  This whimsy is apparently not confined to his classes but appears to have permeated his book, The Theory of Probability: Explorations and Applications (Cambridge University Press, 2013), which, no doubt due to writer's block, was twenty five years in the writing, and which, to his surprise, was received with acclaim by bemused, and no doubt confused, reviewers.  He has perpetuated this insanity by launching a top-rated MOOC on probability in 2015, originally on the Coursera platform.  This luxurious suite of lectures may now be viewed gratis on the Video Lectures page on this site or on YouTube.

He was a recipient in 2004 of the University of Pennsylvania's highest teaching honour, the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, given in recognition of distinguished teaching that is "intellectually demanding, unusually coherent, and permanent in its effect. Demonstrating great forbearance, his students have chosen fit to also confer upon him the S. Reed Warren, Jr. Award in 2018, the award presented by the undergraduate student body and the Engineering Alumni Society in recognition of "outstanding service in stimulating and guiding the intellectual and professional development of undergraduate students".


When not thinking about mathematics, reading, or teaching he is known to haunt soccer pitches in the region occupying a central midfield position in pursuit of o jogo bonito, and has been known to coach a succession of youth soccer teams, his coaching methods, apparently borrowing much from his teaching repertoire, reportedly involving much giggling and horsing around.  His long-suffering wife Cecily has permitted him to perpetuate this madness and imbue their three children, Anil, Sara, and Vidya, with a love of mathematics, language, and soccer.  And this has given him the greatest joy of all.

Open Book
DonBosco Soccer team 1974.jpeg