Varatharajah named 2021 CSL PhD Thesis Award Winner


Lauren Laws, CSL

Bioengineering faculty member and ECE graduate Yogatheesan Varatharajah was honored Monday as the 2021 CSL PhD Thesis Award Winner for his work, “Domain-guided Machine Learning for Analytics: The Case for Neurological Disease.”

Yoga Varatharajah receives 2021 CSL PhD Thesis Award
Yoga Varatharajah receives 2021 CSL PhD Thesis Award.

Varatharajah’s work focused on improving treatments and diagnosis for epileptic patients, and disease progression for those suffering from Alzheimer’s. In collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, Varatharajah developed several clinical decision support tools to assist neurologist with diagnostic and treatment decisions in those patients.

Using domain-guided Machine Learning (ML), Varatharajah was able to localize epileptic brain regions and diagnosis of cognitive decline and epilepsy. This could be done in a much shorter time frame than current procedures, which is helpful to both clinicians and patients. According to Varatharajah’s nomination form for the award, “This is particularly useful in the United States because there is a nationwide shortage of neurologists and Yoga’s work provides a scalable solution that can be used in remote settings with limited access to expert neurologists.”

Yoga Varatharajah gives talk on thesis research.
Yoga Varatharajah gives talk on thesis research. 

Varatharajah’s adviser and CSL faculty member Ravishankar Iyer said, “The methods he developed and the software tools encapsulating them are being used as parts of ongoing research or clinical trials at top medical institutions, including Mayo Clinic, Rochester, and the Cleveland Clinic.”

Varatharajah received both his MS and PhD in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He was the recipient of an inaugural Mayo Clinic Illinois Alliance Fellowship, a Rambus Computer Engineering Fellowship, and an American Epilepsy Society Young Investigator Award. He is currently a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at UIUC and a Visiting Scientist in the Department of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester.

His research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Mayo Clinic Neurology Artificial Intelligence program, and the Jump ARCHES Foundation.