ANU Computing is the home to many leading women in computing. Meet some of our team below and read their stories.
What inspires you most about the work you do? I am passionate about video games research, and using games to better understand humans, machines, our natural world, and new worlds. I also love learning and creating new knowledge. I am driven by a deep desire for discovery. I relish the time that I can spend reading papers, having inspiring conversations with my colleagues and students, and deep in thought on challenging problems. I also really enjoy working with my students and watching as they learn and grow to be our future leaders, researchers, and practitioners. My work can be truly inspiring and deeply satisfying.
What has helped you most in your career? I have always followed my passion and so have been driven in achieving my goals, which is important in succeeding in academia. I also actively create and join diverse networks across my university, Australia, and the world. Having strong networks is also key to academic success, as research is much stronger when working with other people. Being part of a team or network also means that you have other people looking out for you and help find and gain opportunities. I have also moved between academia, industry, government, and entrepreneurship, so my experience is diverse and unique.
What challenges have you faced and how did you manage them? Moving in and out of academia has been beneficial and rewarding. However, it also presents career challenges, as each change requires catching up, acclimatising, and rebuilding research networks and projects. Achieving success in research is really a long game and any kind of move can present setbacks. It is also challenging for me to represent my diverse career path and to explain my non-academic achievements. I have sought mentorship from senior colleagues with both diverse and traditional academic careers, to better understand how I can best represent my unique path and better fit into the academic culture.
What inspires you most about the work you do? My research mainly focuses on Computer Vision and Machine Learning techniques, which enables the computer or AI agent to see and understand the world as humans. As a researcher, I am working on challenging fundamental research problems and creating advanced techniques for the AI industry. As an educator, I am working with my students and helping them grow to become future leaders and researchers. While my work could be challenging sometimes, it is truly exciting and rewarding. I enjoy the happiness of solving problems and the accomplishment of my students.
What has helped you most in your career? I am driven by curiosity to make an achievement in my academic career. I moved to Australia to join the top research team in Computer Vision to build my track record. I am working on computer vision and machine learning related research which have broad applications in the industry such as autonomous driving and AR/VR. I thus actively collaborate with colleagues from academia and industry to tackle real product related problems. These collaborations also help me build my network and achieve impact. The great part of being a researcher is tackling new problems everyday which is refreshing. I am passionate about creating new technologies from day to day.
What challenges have you faced and how did you manage them? It is always challenging for me to make the decision to pursue a career in academia or industry. After my graduation, I started working as a researcher in research institutes, which shares similarities with academia and industries. After spending 5 years working in such a hybrid environment, I talked to people in industry, attended interviews and at the same time applied for research funding to support my own research. After trying different opportunities for a year, I then decided to move to the university and pursue my career in academia for a few years. It is never too late to try new things. The core principle I stick to in the past few years is continuing publishing and doing good research.
What inspires you most about the work you do? I am passionate about co-producing research and education, for example, the PostAc® web service. I am its co-founder and the chief Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) scientist. This technology maps non-academic demand for PhD graduates and helps them, through online learning activities, to employment that uses their full range of skills. My work is creating a generation of ML- and NLP-empowered workforce and related learning resources in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine (STEMM). I teach STEMM interdisciplinary skills, with a focus on multi-professional collaboration and communication, from Bachelors to PhD students, post docs, and engineers. My teaching practice exposes learners to intelligent agents that will be a part of their future careers; I help them learn to co-create tools that will transform tedious tasks into machine-assisted workflows, thus releasing human labour for more meaningful duties and enhancing Australia’s prosperity.
What has helped you most in your career? I have unique talent, almost 20 years’ experience, world-class excellence, and exceptionally strong skills both in methods and customer engagement that has led to significant Artificial Intelligence (AI) projects to government agencies and private corporations in Australia and overseas. However, my leadership is not only about AI algorithms, big data, and computing, but I am also gifted in influencing others and bringing them along. I have my Finnish sisu — an adamant faith in my team to focus, commit, and deliver important information and artefacts to our community, clients, and society. I see in myself a catalyst for change, to manage complexity and drive collegiality, as well as mentor emerging leaders to bridge the gap between computer, health, and social sciences.
What challenges have you faced and how did you manage them? I am passionate about teaching and learning and have tirelessly advocated for continuous improvement in pedagogy to benefit students and education community. However, as I told before (Hawking, 2021, available at https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/237793), I was fool enough to bite the odd poisoned apple of toxic anonymous feedback. Disheartened by some negative student experiences of learning and teaching, my mirror on the wall told me I was as an educator rather an ugly duckling than a beautiful White Swan. For Snow White and me alike, our caring community was the greatest asset that watched over us while we were experiencing our existential crises. The dwarfs protected Snow White from the evil Queen and sheltered her in a glass coffin her awakening. Likewise, my supervisors, colleagues, and students in the ANU were my rock who rescued me from my coffin to reflect accurately and lead authentically.
What inspires you most about the work you do? My research focuses on translating traditional software engineering knowledge into software created for scientific purposes, such as data science, machine learning, and more. I work with a blend of methodologies to uncover details from real-world software and cross them with developers’ insights. My overall aims are to improve the quality/robustness of scientific software, but also to provide tools and insights to research software engineers (and scientists!) to develop more reliable software for their research.
What has helped you most in your career? I was fortunate to commence an undergraduate research internship in the third year of my Engineering studies (five years total). My supervisor here later offered me to apply for a PhD position under his supervision. He inspired me to become an independent researcher very early on, to identify new connections, be proactive and develop collaborations with other researchers–and what I learned here helped me secure a position in Australia.
What challenges have you faced and how did you manage them? Moving overseas and coming to Australia from a third-world country was a life-changing experience. It is quite intimidating moving from one step on the ladder to the next, especially when having to adjust to widely different cultures and organisations. I believe the ability to work independently, to learn and adapt as you go are foundational keystones required for this–and the passion and interest to pursue your own research goals.
What inspires you most about the work you do? “Passion and curiosity” are the key drivers that inspire me to start my day for work with energy and love. I have been fortunate to have opportunities to explore various aspects of computing in my research career, from my early research work in formal methods and logic, to databases and data mining, and now graph algorithms and graph machine learning. This has been a truly amazing learning journey, where I found myself deeply passionate about exploring new ideas and possibilities for solving challenging problems, and curious about discovering how and why things work.
What has helped you most in your career? I would say persistence grounded on the love of learning and passion for research. I have experienced some unusual career interruptions in the past and almost gave up my PhD studies as the School where I studied was disestablished abruptly without providing any support to existing PhD students. But fortunately I have persisted in completing my PhD studies and finished it with another university (and indeed in a different country). This journey has made me reflect on how to manage difficult situations - although being my best is not easy, I can at least finish what I have started and try my best. This reflection on persistence has helped me go through many challenging situations in my career later on.
What challenges have you faced and how did you manage them? Academic leadership is the most challenging aspect in my career. Nowadays, many important research problems are complex, which require collaboration across disciplines and teamwork. Achieving academic excellence by doing research alone is difficult and a successful researcher should think big, think strategically, and create vision to inspire others to follow. This was a challenging and demanding transition for me. Nonetheless, looking back now, I realise that if we have passion, determination and persistence, everyone can find their own path to go through this journey - which can be highly rewarding!
If you are excited to be part of a diverse and inclusive School of Computing - please apply to work or study with us.