Ramakrishnan Sundara Ramanb

5+ Year Ph.D. Student in Computer Science and Engineering, Michigan Engineering

Ramakrishnan is an active member of the internet freedom community and a Ph.D. candidate in computer science whose research focuses on measuring social inequity and inaccessibility on the Internet – such as Internet censorship, shutdowns, and geo-blocking that disrupt the internet for marginalized internet user groups. Ramakrishnan founded and heads one of the largest data sources and global observatories of internet censorship, Censored Planet, and his study of censorship events has resulted in tangible policy change. As an example, his work protected secure access to the internet for millions of users in Kazakhstan. Ram is also involved in DEI activities in the department and has served as the Outreach and co-DEI chair for the group CSEG, the graduate student organization in computer science and engineering, where he spearheaded the inclusion of minority student voices in graduate admissions, organized educational activities for middle and high school students and spearheaded a collaboration with FEMMES, an organization aims to increase the number of women* who pursue careers in science, technology, math, and engineering (STEM) fields by fostering girls’ interests at a young age, to organize CS workshops for underrepresented gender groups.

Being your best DEI self: Think of a time when you were at your best at advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. What happened? Who was there? Why did you feel at your best?

I am very passionate about teaching, and I think the moment that I remember here is when I organized multiple outreach educational activities for students from underrepresented gender groups in middle and high school. Around 100 students participated around schools surrounding Ann Arbor, and I felt at my best because I could see the spark for learning STEM topics among all the students that participated. As the outreach chair of my department’s graduate school student organization, I coordinated several such activities, and I collaborated with FEMMES umich, a student organization that undertakes many programs aimed at teaching STEM topics to women and other underrepresented groups.”

In envisioning the future, how would you describe progress in the realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion? What might it look like?

“My ideal future would be one where everyone has an equal and equitable opportunity. My research involves investigating inequities in digital access due to actions such as Internet censorship, geoblocking, and shutdowns. My research aims to improve Internet access for everyone around the world, and my ideal future would be one where everyone has equitable access to the Internet.”

What does it mean to you to be a recipient of the MLK Spirit Awards?

“Having worked for more than 5 years in addressing digital inequity, it means everything to me to be nominated for this award. I am really grateful for the opportunity to work on such impactful problems, and I hope to be able to continue working in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King.”

Ramakrishnan Sundara Ramanb