Kurri Serves up New Algorithms for Data Generation and Quantifying Data Leakage

Dr. Gowtham Kurri, IIIT Hyderabad’s newest faculty member is all gung-ho about working on data generation and quantifying leakages. What makes his experience different is that he has seen both sides of the coin – first as an outstanding student and now as Assistant Professor at SPCRC.

The pandemic was possibly the best of times and the worst of times for Dr. Gowtham Raghunath Kurri. He was selected for his post-doctoral fellowship at Arizona State University in 2020 and his visa process was underway when the pandemic lockdowns nixed his foreign study plans. The scholar did a quick recalibration and would go on to complete his post-doctoral tenure, remotely from Hyderabad.

With a Ph. D in Systems Science from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and Postdoctoral Research from Arizona State, Kurri would opt to return to IIIT Hyderabad as faculty in the Signal Processing and Communications Research Center (SPCRC) in February 2023. Apart from guiding postgraduate and senior undergraduate students, Kurri will be teaching a curated course – ‘Information-Theoretic Methods in Computer Science’ related to his core research area in Information Theory and Machine Learning. “The main aim of the course is to introduce various information-theoretic quantities and ideas and illustrate their applications in various fields like theoretical computer science, discrete mathematics and machine learning”, he explains.

Immersive IIIT Hyderabad experience
When Kurri joined the B. Tech program at IIIT Hyderabad (2007-2011), his aspirations were robustly aligned with his peers from Guntur. “After completing my schooling from Bhashyam Public school and Shri Chaitanya Junior College in Guntur, I joined the Electronics and Communications Engineering (ECE) stream. “My point of view at that time was that, while CSE is mainly computer programming-related, ECE has a Maths flavour to it, and Maths being my favorite subject from childhood, I opted for ECE”, he observes. The comprehensive course structure included coding and programming experience in the first year, that he uses in his research work even today.

He credits exposure to courses like Signals and systems by Prof. Jayanthi Sivaswamy, Linear Algebra and Number Theory by Prof. Rajat Tandon, Artificial Neural Networks by Prof. Yegnanarayana, Error Correcting Codes by Prof. Rama Murthy, Probability and random processes by Prof. P. R. K. Rao and especially Prof. V. U.  Reddy’s course on Information Theory and Coding as some of the reasons for opting for his field of study in Ph.D. “My inclination towards analytical and mathematical thinking started mainly with these B. Tech courses that I enjoyed a lot. Close to my final year, I got a chance to attend the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM), the largest congress in the mathematics community, held at HICC, Hyderabad in 2010, thanks to Prof. Rajat Tandon (Secretary of Executive Organizing Committee, ICM 2010). I had the opportunity to meet the Fields medal (regarded as the Nobel Prize in Mathematics) winner, Prof. Cedric Villani”, he remarks.

With Fileds medalist Prof. Cedric Villani at International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM), 2010

The one-year stint in Qualcomm as an associate software development engineer would give him a clear perspective of his analytical capabilities and crystallize his plans to pursue his Masters,
graduating First Class with Distinction, followed by Ph.D. in Systems science (2013-2020) from TIFR. His Ph.D. thesis analyzed the role of common randomness, interaction and security in the context of coordination in the information theory framework.

After a research internship in Blockchain Technology Group at IBM research, Bangalore, the scholar started his post-doctoral fellowship, working remotely with Arizona State University, that turned out to be a cinch for him. “While the human interaction and broader collaborations were missing, I found remote working to be very effective, for the kind of research that I do, which is theoretical and analytical in nature. The virtual format of meetings enabled me to record and refer back to mathematical observations”, he observes.

The bird returns to the Vata-Vriksha
“There’s such a feeling of homecoming”, remarks Kurri about settling down in IIIT Hyderabad as faculty. His current research is in line with his post-doctoral work on information-theoretic privacy leakage and generative adversarial networks (GAN).  “The fundamental question in information-theoretic privacy leakage is – how much information does an observation released to an adversary, reveal/leak about a correlated sensitive data? GAN is actually a hot topic in machine learning, capable of generating new data” explains Kurri, who is currently mentoring two Ph. D students in Arizona state university in the area of Machine learning. “The notion of privacy leakage is very important. Such a scenario naturally arises in many situations, e.g., whenever user data is stored (social networks) and a certain level of information leakage is unavoidable in exchange for certain services. GANs have many applications in art generation, audio synthesis, photo editing, healthcare, etc. The work I do in these areas is very fundamental and is relevant to information theory and related fields like machine learning”.

Kurri has notched up 11 conference papers in International Symposium on Information Theory (ISIT), Information Theory Workshop (ITW), and 4 journal publications in Transactions on Information Theory. “My first publication titled ‘Coordination using individually shared randomness’ was selected for the Technical Program Committee (TPC) session and received immediate recognition at ISIT”, says the scholar who was awarded the Sarojini Damodaran Fellowship to present the paper at ISIT 2018 in Colorado.  He also presented a part of his postdoctoral research work at the International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) Workshop.

NBH46, Cricket, first-day-first-shows and a different world
As a student, the carefree youngster created many pleasant memories on the verdant IIIT campus. “During my B.Tech days, we used to play cricket in what used to be called the Felicity grounds. All the names of hostels, grounds and canteens seem to have changed nowadays”, he says nostalgically. As part of Felicity, Kurri was co-organizer for Mister E, a nationwide technical online competition and his role involved formulating the mathematical questions.  He was also a co-organizer for RoboCamp 2010, a national level Robotics Workshop held at IIIT Hyderabad.

He has fond memories of group discussions with his friends at Room No. 46 of the New Boys Hostel, before the umpteen number of examinations they had. These prep sessions would become a big source of entertainment for the hardworking youngster who featured thrice on the Dean’s list for academic excellence.

“We used to love watching movies and would always try to catch the First Day First show at HiTech theatre, Gokul theatre and Inorbit mall, that had just opened in Gachibowli”, he reminisces. “I still feel like a student sometimes. The IIIT campus looks the same except for a few new buildings but the landscape around the campus has changed tremendously and looks like a new city. The campus is even more vibrant now and I find that students and instructors are a lot more interactive in class sessions. I am most excited to be in this new journey, a new chapter”.

Early days
Hailing from Chinnaganjam village in Andhra Pradesh, his early years were shaped by his father’s indomitable thirst for knowledge. An executive engineer by profession, his father worked in the Governor’s office in Raj Bhavan. Along the way, he also took night-classes to earn degrees like MBA and AMIE.  “I enjoyed mathematics and would look forward to Maths class from the beginning of the school day, especially my 6th Standard Math teacher Sunitha who played a big part in fueling my joy for solving maths problems”, he confesses. There was a significant role played by his Masters advisor Prof Pranab Sen, Ph. D advisor Prof Vinod Prabhakaran and his post-doc guides Prof. Lalitha Sankar and Prof. Oliver Kosut. “It was chiefly during my post-doc training that I got a chance to independently formulate problems in a meaningful manner, that made me an self-driven researcher”, notes Kurri.

The professor and his wife Dr. Sireesha, an anesthesiologist will soon be moving into campus housing, which would free up a lot of commuting time. Thanks to their 3 and half year-old pre-schooler Anurag who keeps his leisure time occupied, his reading these days is mostly confined to technical books. “I love dance and music shows and generally prefer listening to regional music. Traveling is a hobby that we indulge whenever I get a chance to. I mostly travel with my family or go on solo trips to conferences”. His fitness regimen consists of constitutional walks, meditation and yoga to sharpen focus.

Fresh cup of wisdom
For freshers to IIIT Hyderabad, the professor advises, “Don’t get stressed about the intense coursework in your first year. The first few semesters will seem to be a bit hectic, but it is this training that will make your coursework (and possibly life) easier for you in the future. Make proper use of the facilities and infrastructure, follow your passion and enjoy life to the fullest”.

Going forward, Kurri hopes to see more work emerging in information theory and machine learning, which in his perspective, are two sides of the same coin. Information theory is the study of fundamental limits in communication and compression of information while machine learning focuses on developing algorithms to imitate the way humans learn or the way brains work. The human brain, he believes is the ultimate compression and communication system.

Deepa Shailendra is a freelance writer for interior design publications; an irreverent blogger, consultant editor and author of two coffee table books. A social entrepreneur who believes that we are the harbingers of the transformation and can bring the change to better our world.



  1. It is an immense pleasure for me to go through this blog.As a father, I had to visit the prestegious IIIT campus during 2007 to admit my son in B.Tech (ECE) and I got wonderful opportunity to revisit the campus during March 2023 when my son Dr.Gowtham Raghuth Kurri, joined as Asst .Professor in this great IIIT campus. My sincere thanks to Ms. Deepa Shailendra who presented this blog…

    Rama Subba Rao Kurri says:
  2. He deserved it

    mallikarjuna says:
  3. 👌👌

    mallikarjuna says:
  4. Raghu, I feel proud to be your sister.
    Congratulations Raghu on achieving your goal in life. All the best for your endeavours.

    Pallavi says:

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