BY: Mikaela Dunkin
EDUCATION: B.Tech. in Computer Science at the National Institute of Technology, Surat in India, currently working towards a master of science in Computer Science at Stony Brook University
RESEARCH INTERESTS: Theoretical computer science, including approximation algorithms, combinatorial optimization, and computational geometry
CURRENT RESEARCH: Scheduling in parallel computations with memory constraints
Why did you want to be a part of GWiSE?
I believe inclusion is important. I wanted to be part of attaining this goal (inclusion of women) through WISE events for empowering women.
When did you know you were interested in pursuing a degree in science and engineering?
Since childhood, solving puzzles and mathematics has interested me the most. I took engineering because it’s the mainstream choice in my country, India.
Pursuing a master’s and in the future a Ph.D has been by choice and interest. I developed passion to do Theoretical Computer Science during the first semester of my Master’s Program.
What got you interested in your field?
Whenever I doubt my abilities in mathematics, I try to remember this:
When I began my college education, I still had many doubts about whether I was good enough for mathematics. Then a colleague said the decisive words to me: it is not that I am worthy to occupy myself with mathematics, but rather that mathematics is worthy for one to occupy oneself with.
I also really want to thank my advisor, Prof. Rezaul Chowdhury, who has been immensely kind and helpful to me during all times since I took his Algorithms course. Although my interests revolved around Theoretical CS, I never had guidance to pursue it as my career. But Prof. Rezaul always encouraged me to pursue this dream. Although, I haven’t had a rigorous background in theoretical aspects, I understood that persistent efforts can make a lot of difference. My experience at Stony Brook has been amazing with amazing Professors like Joseph Mitchell, Michael Bender, and Steven Skiena who are not just technically sound but immensely kind and always supportive to students with curiosity.
Where is the most interesting place you’ve visited?
I haven’t traveled much to date. The farthest I have come from home is United States. Being an International student (for 1 year 3 months now), I can claim that the U.S. is the most interesting place I’ve visited. Marathons, US Open, Conferences, Workshops, I could see inclusiveness (which I believe is a strong characteristic for harmony in the information/intelligent age) in most places I have been part of. Although there is a lot to achieve, their awareness and efforts are applaudable. It’s a great cultural and educational experience to me.
What is your most treasured memory?
Seeing Roger and Rafa on court is a very dramatic moment for me. I’ve looked up to them for several years now. Seeing them practice with dedication and passion is immensely motivating for me. I vividly remember how an hour passed like a second seeing Rafa practice intensely in scorching mid August’s sun in NY.
What do you think needs to happen for there to be more women in science and engineering?
Women need more support from their families and friends. And definitely government policies play a important role in bringing more women on to the professional stage in Science/Engineering. Things have improved over years. I experienced immense support from my advisor and the Theoretical CS community in this matter. Research Fellowships and Grants to big stages (like top conferences and research groups) for women with commendable research capabilities is also a good way to draw more women into the community.