Monday, February 18, 2019

Three questions to three junior female computer scientists for the International Day of Women in Science

Last Monday, 11 February, was the International Day of Women in Science. I planned to post the answers I received from three junior female computer scientists to three questions I asked them. However, being a computer scientist who is short of time like everyone else, I asked for a one-week deadline extension to do so.

The questions were
  1. When did you become interested in science?
  2. Why did you choose computer science?
  3. Which advice would you give to a high-school student who is thinking about pursuing a career in science?  
Here are the (unedited) answers in the order in which I received them, in case they might be of interest to (female) students of all ages. I have anonymized the answers as the message is more important than the messengers.

Colleague #1

  1. I never had a sentence like "I am interested in science" in my mind, it was just that I always in one way or another enjoyed learning about things, school and education, and I wanted to continue being in that type of surroundings after graduating from university. 
  2. I actually studied mathematics, I was not interested in computer science. I had some algorithms and programming classes during my studies, which I found cute but not much more than that. I started being seriously interested in computer science only when I took a class on mathematical theory of computation. This class combined the mathematical/theoretical/
    philosophical approach I liked so much with (for me) a new and refreshing set of questions.
  3. Try it and see how it goes.
Colleague #2

  1. My interest in science started when visiting the SMAU that is an event where companies, investors and startups aim to promote the Made in Italy Research and Innovation. It was simply amazing to learn about startups, laboratories, research centres, universities and small companies showing so many novel ideas and technologies in one day, it really impressed me a lot. 
  2. Computer science was the alternative to Math (my preferred subject at the scientific high school) but I thought it was too abstract and full of theories, demonstrations and proofs, maybe too much. Computer science has the theoretical part that is fascinating but it also has some more practical implications, it is somehow more concrete, and I like both sides. 
  3. Don't be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try. I think it is worthwhile to try if you have any inclination to science because you are exposed to problem solving reasoning, and these efforts can be helpful for building a better society.
Colleague #3

  1. From the junior secondary school, scientific subjects were my favorites, together with history.
  2. During the high school, I started to study computer science and also laboratory of computer science where it was applied to other subjects such as Math and Business Economics. I was really passionate of this subject, which was among my favorite. When it was time to choose for the University, computer science was naturally the first in the list. I also had other alternatives but in the end I quickly decided to apply for computer science.
  3. My advice is simply to do whatever he/she really likes and for which he/she is good and has obtained good results, without thinking too much about work opportunities or what other people (e.g., parents) want for them. For each career, in science or not, passion is the main ingredient to reach good results. Then, I also think that one can change his/her mind and do something completely different after the university. The important is to study what one really likes.

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