Indiana University Kelley School of Business
“With a research focus on the development of proactive Cyber Threat Intelligence from online hacker communities, Professor Sagar Samtani’s research focuses on identifying emerging threats and key threat actors from the Dark Web. His award-winning research addresses one of the modern society’s grand challenges of protecting cyber-assets from exploitation and has wide practical implications for the information age. As an award-winning teacher, his students are brought into understanding the cyberworld.” – Jamie Prenkert, Executive Associate Dean for Faculty and Research
Sagar Samtani, 31, is Assistant Professor of Operations and Decision Technologies and Grant Thornton Scholar at Indiana University Kelley School of Business.
His research aims to develop AI-enabled analytics based in deep learning, network science, and text mining approaches for Dark Web analytics, vulnerability assessment for advanced cyberinfrastructure, open-source software security, cyber threat intelligence, AI risk management, and mental health applications. His work is published in leading journals such as MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Research, Journal of MIS, and ACM Transactions on MIS; in cybersecurity venues such as ACM Transactions on Privacy and Security, IEEE TDSC, IEEE S&P, USENIX, and Computers and Security; and machine learning venues such as ACM KDD, IEEE ICDM, IEEE Intelligent Systems, and others.
He also serves as a program committee member or program chair of leading AI for cybersecurity and CTI conferences and workshops. He holds leadership positions in leading industry entities, including spots on the CompTIA ISAO Executive Advisory Council and the DEFCON AI Village board of directors.
In 2022, he was inducted into the NSF/CISA SFS Hall of Fame, and won an AIS Early Career Award. He was nominated for the Indiana University Outstanding Junior Faculty Award and was Runner-Up for the INFORMS Nunamaker-Chen Dissertation Award in 2018. He has also won multiple teaching awards for his courses on AI for cybersecurity, CTI, and business analytics, including the Mumford Excellence in Extraordinary Teaching Award and James F. Lasalle Teaching Award.
He has been cited in the Miami Herald, Fox, Science Magazine, AAAS, The Penny Hoarder, and other venues.
At current institution since what year? 2020
Education: Ph.D., University of Arizona, Management Information Systems (2018); Masters of Science in Management Information Systems, University of Arizona (2014); Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Management Information Systems, University of Arizona (2013).
List of Undergraduate courses you teach: Business Data Programming
TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I attended my first set of conferences in 2015: IEEE Intelligence and Security Informatics (ISI) to present my first conference paper, DEFCON and BlackHat to attend cybersecurity training to enhance my knowledge about the field and identify promising research topics, and the top Information Systems (IS) conference International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS) as a volunteer to serve my home discipline. 2015 illustrated to me the potential way I could construct my year to engage with (and when possible, contribute to) multiple communities to build out my profile as a business school professor. Taking such “tours” every year has helped me greatly in staying relatively balanced in my professional activities.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I currently run a research lab with grant funding from the National Science Foundation that is focused on developing Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled techniques for cyber threat intelligence and mental health applications. We have a variety of projects in the lab pertaining to these topics, including open-source software security, AI risk management, Dark Web analytics, vulnerability management, and sensor signal-based health analytics.
One of the projects that I have been focusing on extensively with my Ph.D. student Aijia Yuan seeks to identify if students are exhibiting depressive behaviors by analyzing sensor signal data generated from smartphones. The results are interesting; certain sensors, such as a smartphone’s screen light (a proxy for sleep-related behavior) have a strong relationship with students exhibiting depression. We are hoping to roll out the deep learning-based algorithms we have developed to Kelley School of Business and Indiana University and help support the mental health services on campus. We hope to help further Kelley’s culture of care.
If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… seeking to climb the “ladder” in a corporation in America or going to law school and opening my own practice after.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I am deeply engaged with industry, government, federal funding agencies, and law enforcement for my research, consulting, and community development activities. Bringing back stories from these experiences makes helps provide tangible examples to students in my classes that the conceptual content they are learning is grounded in practice and matters in the “real world.”
One word that describes my first time teaching: Focused.
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Many of the undergraduate and graduate students I would interact with are more talented, focused, resilient, and intelligent than I was at their stage of my career – and wrestling with the imposter syndrome I feel when interacting with them.
Professor I most admire and why: Dr. Hsinchun Chen at the University of Arizona. Dr. Chen’s record speaks for itself – Fellow of ACM, IEEE, AAAS, AIS, 105 h-index, 700+ peer-reviewed journal, conference, and workshop papers, nearly 50K citations, $60M+ of funding, 35+ graduated Ph.D. students, pioneer in the areas of business analytics and security informatics, and a major commercial success with his COPLINK system. It is not only these achievements that led to my admiration of him – he had many of them before I met him in 2014! I truly appreciate how wonderful of a mentor and person he is and the dedication he has to make the world a better place. I learned a great deal from him during my doctoral studies, especially about topic selection, grant funding, paper writing, community building, creating win-win situations, and much more. His approach to building out a lab is largely based on federal funding is very unique and inspirational. He has been a great role model and example for me as I have sought to build out my own research lab that consistently produces quality research and more broadly serves our community (locally, regionally, and nationally).
TEACHING BUSINESS SCHOOL STUDENTS
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? Business school students are very application-oriented. I love hearing how students take the concepts and materials from my classes and apply them to solve problems of high interest to them. I am truly amazed at the ingenuity, drive, and humility of many undergraduates at the Kelley School of Business and their desire to solve practical problems.
What is most challenging? Students in business schools are often placed in extremely competitive environments wherein the fear of missing out is very real. Oftentimes, this can result in significant mental health concerns for students. Helping students see the bigger picture, gain depth in their professional activities, and reduce their worry/stress/anxiety/concern around technical content is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, aspects of teaching business school students.
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Dedicated.
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Distracted.
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Fair, reasonable, and timely.
LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies? Since becoming a faculty member, I have picked cooking. I have always been a big fan of sports – less so on playing and watching these days, but more so on generally keeping up on recent developments and box scores. I also very much enjoy traveling – both my advisor Dr. Chen and my girlfriend Edlin have far more experience traveling than I do, and they have emphasized to me the importance of gaining diverse sets of experiences from different cultures to help better understand students, their backgrounds, and how to select research topics that could potentially make a positive difference in people’s lives.
How will you spend your summer? Similar to last summer, I will likely be in Taiwan this upcoming summer for an ongoing consulting project I have there. When coming back, I will likely go to Las Vegas – I tend to spend a few days to a week there every year attending security conferences, buffets, and pool parties.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: Miami. Beautiful beaches, amazing food, great places for biking, and incredible culture. It should also be noted that I have only taken one vacation since becoming a faculty member, so the data points to select from are quite limited.
Favorite book(s): “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. This classic book played an integral role in shaping the principles that guide my research and teaching activities. I own two copies of the book – my own purchased copy and the copy my father purchased and made notes on. Another book that is a favorite of mine is “Deep Work” by Cal Newport. I recommend this book to most Ph.D. students I work with, as I think it provides excellent guidance on how to stay focused and produce high-quality work in a consistent fashion.
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Marvel movies are always a hit – perhaps the fond memories I have of watching movies part of the Infinity Saga while pursuing my doctoral studies.
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? Lately, I have been very partial to smooth jazz music. Great for relaxation and focus.
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… federal funding to support research labs combined with faster review cycles at journals and a broader acceptance of quality academic journals in addition to the conventional UTD24 and FT50 journal lists. Although all of my degrees and professional experiences have been within business schools, my perspectives on research and teaching were strongly influenced (thanks to my time in the Artificial Intelligence lab at the University of Arizona, my family and friends in other fields, and Kelley School’s diversity) by disciplines such as computer science, information science, physics, civil engineering, math, public health, neuroscience, and medicine. Nearly all of these disciplines’ research activities are driven by funding, labs, teams, and alignment with larger federal initiatives. I have seen first-hand how this can help pursue a diverse set of quality research outputs that have a significant impact on and influence public policy, federal guidance/laws/initiatives, education, commercial products, and more.
In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… understanding and rewarding their employees who seek to publish in academic venues. The unique intersection of research I operate in, Artificial Intelligence and cybersecurity, benefits greatly from amazing organizations incentivizing their employees to collaborate with academics and publish research actively. These companies have quickly discovered that these collaborations can enhance or develop best practices in their firms.
I’m grateful for… the opportunity to have been in world-class workplaces that have been very supportive of my research and teaching activities offered opportunities for me to contribute back to their (often established) environments and provided strong leadership. At the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Arizona, I am grateful that my advisor Dr. Chen (1) took a chance on me in admitting me to his lab and (2) provided amazing opportunities to learn, fail, grow, and lead project teams on interesting projects. Since joining the Kelley School of Business, I have been very grateful for the collegial and supportive environment, rich history, strength of leadership, outstanding processes, open-mindedness, energy, and forward-looking nature of the school. It amazes me how the Kelley School manages to keep such high-quality programs across such a large student population – it is an environment that I am very grateful to be part of.
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