Kumar is the University’s fifteenth provost and its first of Asian-American descent. He is responsible for overseeing academic policy, including interdisciplinary collaboration and campus diversity.
"I'm honored to join and serve the Johns Hopkins community," Kumar told John Hopkins’ The Hub. "I have long admired the university, its outstanding faculty, and its excellent academic programs.”
Kumar earned his PhD in electrical and computer engineering from Illinois, where he was a student under advisor Panganamala R Kumar. During his time as a doctoral student, Sunil Kumar tackled the inefficiencies of manufacturing semiconductor chips. While actual manufacturing time took less than a day, plants often took weeks to move chips through the fabrication process, primarily because of congestion. Kumar used stochastic control theory to analyze the resulting delays in the plants.
Before coming to Johns Hopkins, Kumar served as the dean of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business for five years. During his time at the Booth School, Kumar helped increase the endowment by 50% that helped add two new research centers to the university, a social enterprise initiative and a leadership laboratory.
"My own research interests have spanned engineering and business," Kumar told the Hub, explaining his longstanding interest in interdisciplinary work. "As dean at Chicago, I have helped spearhead several initiatives that brought the business school closer to other parts of the university, especially the undergraduate college.”
Prior, Kumar was a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. One of his primary research initiatives was developing a mathematical model for optimal ticket pricing. Using heuristic algorithms, the model predicts how consumers will respond to tickets offered at a certain price at a certain point before departure time. In a dynamic system such as air travel, which is significantly influenced by stochastic variability, Kumar aimed to mitigate the impact of randomness.
Kumar is confident that his past experiences in both business and engineering will be an asset to him throughout his tenure as provost.
“Part of being a provost is very much connected to the notion of running an organization,” Kumar told the Hub. “There are certainly all manner of things that I've taught and studied in the past that will be immediately relevant to the job, such as managing operations processes and the day-to-day functioning of complex organizations.”