What are your typical responsibilities?
As a computational linguist, I use coding to analyze and model language and find and describe patterns of language use. This means I use code to count and to identify special sequences of words in textual data, calculate statistics over those sequences, classify those words, and organize information. I also develop (train and test) machine learning systems that do natural language processing. As the founder and also program coordinator of Kinderbots, I prepare the coding classes by trying different missions with the robots to see what could be more engaging and to convey a certain computer science concept.
How did you become interested in a STEM profession?
As a child I was always fascinated with math, science, experimenting, and discovering new things. I always wanted to become a scientist or an inventor. I also thought of being an archeologist. Once I also received a chemistry kit and that was fascinating to me! There were microscopes in the house too.
What or whom were you early influences?
Marie Curie and Einstein are definitely on the top of the list, but I also remember reading about Florence Nightingale. I used to read biographies about great minds, many of them women in science. My mother was also a great inspiration because she was always fixing something around the house. If she had been given the chance, I think she would have been an engineer or inventor. My paternal grandfather was a self-taught electrical wiz who made a radio out of only he knows what.
What advice would you offer for students to cultivate an interest in STEM and prepare themselves for a potential future career in a STEM field?
Be curious. Be a learner. Read. Read a lot. Try and fail. Try again. Connect with other people who also have an interest in STEM activities and start a project/club together. Find a mentor.
How can a profession in a STEM field empower young women to make a difference in the world?
STEM fields have historically attracted more young men. Just by being a young woman working in a STEM field, that sets a role model for other women to pursue a career in a STEM field. That by itself makes a big difference in the world. Moreover, if young women have careers in STEM fields, that will allow them, for instance, to participate in policy making in education, health, and science & research changing the future of coming generations.