Celebrating International Women's Day

To celebrate International Women's Day, we spoke to six inspiring women from the Department of Computer Science and Technology

Vasundhara Agarwal, Undergraduate Student

Although I've been at Cambridge for over a year now, there is not a single day that goes by without me randomly stumbling upon an interesting fact about the Department and the groundbreaking work that was done at Cambridge in the field of computing even before the Department was established. It reinforces my belief in what a privilege it is for me to be here and to have the chance of following in the footsteps of the people who pioneered Computer Science.

For me, the best part about the Computer Science Tripos here at Cambridge is how it is simultaneously extremely fun and intellectually challenging. The day doesn't end with the last lecture - instead you get the opportunity to cement your understanding of the concepts through supervisions with people who are experts in their fields. It is rather fascinating to look back at courses at the end of every term and realise how ingeniously they built upon the content you might have been taught earlier in the year.

It has been a wonderful experience so far and I can't wait to work on my dissertation next year!

Jiang He, Computer Associate

I originally came from China with a BEng in Mechanical Engineering, and graduated from Anglia Ruskin University with my MSc in Computer Science in 2000. After carrying out a short technical project in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, I applied for the position of Computer Associate advertised by the Department of Computer Science and Technology. The job description was in line with what I had learned in my MSc course and also my career interest. Luckily, I got and started the job in 2001.

Since then, I have been working with my best effort to support and solve the needs and problems of various users, including staff, visitors and postgraduate students. After 20 years of working in the Department as both an independent IT support staff and a team member with colleagues, I have gained a good level of knowledge and developed useful skills in relation with system administration. I like and enjoy working in our department because there are very friendly and helpful colleagues. The working environment is also very attractive. I shall thank all my colleagues for their guidance, tolerance and understanding for so many years.

In my spare time, I like to play badminton, support my family and watch Chinese TV series.

Mateja Jamnik, Professor of Artifical Intelligence

I am a researcher in Artificial Intelligence and the route that brought me here was through a maths undergraduate degree in Canada, computer science post-graduate conversion course in Cambridge and a PhD in AI in Edinburgh. When I was growing up in Slovenia I loved maths, but I was also interested in people and intrigued by our ability to discover intuitive and elegant solutions to problems. So I guess my educational and research path reflects this. I find interacting with students inspirational and I also love discovering new insights in my research.

Throughout my career, I have felt supported by my mentors, but especially by my husband, which has been instrumental to enable me to pursue academic research and look after our 3 children. There were bumps on the way, especially as I was ploughing new fields of being the first academic to take maternity leave, work part time and negotiate the longer duration of a research fellowship due to these. I feel passionate about supporting minority groups especially women scientists, as well as bringing science closer to the general public, so alongside research I am very active in both of these areas.

To unwind, I try to make time for my hobbies of singing in a band and also in a symphony chorus, run an occasional half-marathon and play korfball.

Mahwish Arif, Research Assistant

I am working as a Research Assistant in the Computer Architecture Group within the Department of Computer Science and Technology. Prior to this, I was a researcher at the Data Science and Scalable Computing Centre at Queen’s University Belfast and also worked as an Embedded Systems Developer in both public and private sector organisations in Pakistan. I have worked on various research projects funded by the UK EPSRC and European Commission which covered a range of areas including parallel and high-performance computing, scalable data analytics, and compiler and runtime systems.

What I like about my role here at Cambridge is the freedom to set my own research direction and goals while always being able to get the advice and support (from within and without my research group) whenever I need it. Another thing which I feel is very valuable about my experience here is the opportunity to gain teaching experience through undergraduate supervisions. In addition to my research role, I am the chair of Women@CL, an initiative here at the Department which aims to support and promote the work of women in computing and inspire younger girls to pursue careers in Computer Science. Outside work, I like to paint, travel and learn about different cultures and political systems.

Dinah Pounds, Teaching Administration Manager

I started my working life as a musician, playing the flute and teaching. After some 25 years as a teacher, I decided on a change in direction and a new career. I studied for a Masters in Education at Trinity Hall and left teaching to join Cambridge University as an administrator. I enjoy the interaction with students and decided to look for a post in a department. I applied to the Department of Computer Science and Technology on the off chance as it sounded an exciting to place to work.

It has proved to be one of my best decisions! Working in the Computer Lab has given me a whole new understanding about science and how the world ticks. The people I work with are stimulating and brilliant. I love the diversity of our staff and I enjoy looking after our students and making the wheels of the CS Tripos run smoothly. Many members of the Lab are musical and I find plenty in common with everyone.

Outside work, I still play the flute regularly with the Academy of Great St Mary’s and have recently helped set up the Romsey Community Music Project.

Cătălina Cangea, PhD Student, Machine Learning

I am a third-year PhD student in Machine Learning, supervised by Pietro Liò and affiliated with King’s College. My current research focuses on learning multimodal and graph-structured representations of the world.

This is my seventh year in the Department, but I am still enjoying it since there is always something new to explore, be it giving part of an MPhil lecture or co-supervising yet another exciting research project!

During undergraduate years, I worked at Google and Facebook over the summers, but realised during the MPhil that research is a much better fit for my thinking and work style. This made me stay for a PhD and explore more research-oriented internships at Mila Québec AI Institute, [Google] X and DeepMind (starting July '20). I also have a great passion for teaching and am constantly involved in academic and departmental activities - supervising undergraduate courses, final year projects and master's research projects, interviewing Computer Science applicants, chairing women@CL and introducing professionals to machine learning concepts as a Cambridge Spark teaching fellow.

In my "free" time, I row with the Women’s First Boat in King’s College, play guitar, sing in a rock band and chase my favourite bands on tour.

#IWD2020 #EachforEqual

To celebrate International Women's Day, we spoke to six inspiring women from the Department of Computer Science and Technology.