Faculty Profile: Sanjay Goel

Sanjay GoelSanjay Goel
Associate Professor and Chair, Information Technology Department Director, B.S. Digital Forensics Program

Professor Sanjay Goel arrived in the United States with a suitcase and $500 when he was recruited for the undergraduate mechanical engineering program at Rutgers. Originally Goel had no interest in earning a Ph.D. or working with computers “too nerdy” and until then had no interest in leaving a comfortable life in New Delhi.

Goel now has a Ph.D., has received more than $5 million in research grants, and is highly respected for his work in cyber security. Classes for the digital forensics undergraduate degree he launched this fall comes on the heels of the successful Graduate Certificate in Information Security unveiled two years ago. Despite earlier misgivings, the technologically averse Goel (a late adopter of cell and smartphones who appreciates the simplicity of living without electronic devices) works with computers.

Goel’s degrees (a Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, an M.S. from Rutgers and a B.S. from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi) and early experience are in mechanical engineering. While at General Electric Global Research, he developed new technology for optimizing engines. He said, “I have always liked to tinker with things, take them apart.” It’s a skill that transfers to information security.

The leap from mechanical engineering to information technology and security came from necessity, to lift constraints and locate security flaws enabling him to obtain the information needed for his work. To learn more about information technology, Goel started taking classes at the School of Business and was soon invited to teach.

The engineer began his teaching career in IT during the fall of 2001. Two weeks into the semester, the Twin Towers fell, leaving him in shock and sorrow. The new professor went to Assistant Dean John Levato for support. Levato told him to be strong for his students, and to reach out to them. Goel said, “I moved from just teaching to developing meaningful mentoring relationships.”

Goel maintains a teaching schedule and close connections with his students despite ongoing and extensive research that covers seven pages on his curriculum vitae. Recent research includes media piracy, smart-grid behavioral analysis and flipped classrooms. (You read about them in the spring 2014 issue of this magazine).

The cyber security expert stays a step or two ahead of the bad guys. He said, “My belief is to look ahead, not behind. Instead of doing security, we need to move toward forensics and analysis. It is no longer a question of ‘if’ we are hacked; it is ‘when.’” To thwart hackers, Goel has been known to take their point-of-view. At the annual New York State Cyber Security Conference, at which he is a frequent presenter and organizer, he once demonstrated hacking into an American Express card via RFI, radio-frequency identification.

Goel’s most recent accomplishment is the creation of a full degree program. The multidisciplinary four-year B.S. in Digital Forensics is one of a handful in the entire country and the only one in the SUNY system. (See the professors hired for this new program on page 3.)
Dr. Goel was recently named the director of a new School of Business research center, the Forensics Analytics, Complexity, Energy, Transportation and Security Center. He also serves as the Director of Research of the New York State Center for Information Forensics and Assurance.

Goel lives with his wife Sunita, an assistant professor of accounting at Siena College, and their 2-year-old twins. Their son, Samir, is studying finance at New York University. Goel plays ultimate Frisbee and is a founder of the Schenectady Greenmarket.