University of Calgary

Female computer science grads learn from wise profs

UToday HomeApril 17, 2013

By Marie-Helene Thibeault

An audience of female computer scientists learned about the professional and personal choices made by successful female industry pioneers at an informational luncheon held on April 5 with guest professor Susan Landau.An audience of female computer scientists learned about the professional and personal choices made by successful female industry pioneers at an informational luncheon held on April 5 with guest professor Susan Landau. Photo courtesy Deb Angus, ISPIAComputers have come a long way in the last two decades. Nonetheless, today’s female graduate students in computer science share more in common with the experiences lived by their pioneering professors than they think.

This became apparent at a recent Women in Computer Science Luncheon held on April 5 with special guest Susan Landau, an American expert in the areas of cybersecurity, privacy, and public policy, who has acted as Distinguished Engineer at Sun Microsystems.

Professor Landau, who has been a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and at Wesleyan University and has held visiting positions at Harvard, Cornell, and Yale, and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, made a special visit to the University of Calgary to present a talk as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series for the Institute for Security, Privacy and Information Assurance (ISPIA).

In addition to her lecture, she spoke in a graduate class and joined a lunch reserved for the department’s female graduate students.

Attended by a dozen of students, the informal session included Professor Landau’s overview of her professional journey and a discussion of the challenges and opportunities she encountered.

From choosing to pursue an academic career versus joining industry, effectively balancing career and family life, considering entrepreneurship, and simply finding one’s passion – these were some of the themes that resonated with the young graduates in attendance.

Female Department of Computer Science faculty members including professor Sheelagh Carpendale, associate professor Marina Gavrilova, professor Rei Safavi-Naini and professor Renate Scheidler also shared their unique stories, from being inquisitive students to now being prominent members of academia.

“I very much enjoyed this lunch, and I'm glad I was able to attend,” said one of the students. “I was struck by how varied everyone's career and life paths were. I appreciated the opportunity to hear academics talk from the perspective of life in general, as opposed to focusing solely on the research aspect,” she added.

“It was really interesting to see successful academic women who were in the room had taken such diverse paths to be in the places they are today,” said Safavi-Naini. “It’s important for students to realize that even for these prominent academics, things were not planned from day one and that they took one step at a time and made choices as opportunities were presented to them,” she added.

The ISPIA’s Distinguished Lecture Series will resume in the fall and a complete schedule will be available shortly at: http://www.ispia.ucalgary.ca/news_events/seminars.

 

Follow UToday on Twitter.
Check the UToday website for news about events, people and trends at University of Calgary.
Follow what’s happening on campus using our interactive calendar.