Aurore Guillevic, new researcher in the Caramba team
©Inria Nancy - Grand Est
Aurore Guillevic has been a researcher in the Caramba project team since November 2016. Halfway between mathematics and computer science, she works in the field of cryptography, on the security of encryption systems.
What pushed you towards research in computer science? And what excites you the most about your profession?
©Inria Nancy - Grand Est
What pushed me towards this field were the job prospects offered by computer science and the potential variety of professions available. Following a degree in maths and computer science, I began a Master's in cryptography. I discovered this branch of computer science during a science fair. My teachers popularised the principles of cryptography and I decided that this was what I wanted to do. I chose to continue with a thesis at Thales Communications (CIFRE). I spent one day a week in the lab, and the rest of my time in the company. This was immediately followed by a postdoc at Inria Saclay - Île de France in the Grace team, where I was able to meet experts in the field such as François Morain. After a second postdoc in Calgary, Canada - I had great pleasure discovering this country - I was given the opportunity of joining the Caramba team in Nancy as a researcher, and I didn't hesitate. I arrived here in November and, for the time being, I am really enjoying it.
My work consists in testing the security of encryption functions that are based on discrete logarithms. By breaking into miniature versions, I can estimate the computing time necessary to break into full versions that are currently in use, or size future versions. My field in cryptography is as new as computer science, which is becoming increasingly important. There are constantly new challenges to address, and questions to ask for the future.
Why do you think there are so few women working in digital technology, and what would you say to encourage them to get involved in this field?
In my year, there were very few girls in the computer sciences, from fresher level onwards. The researchers who have worked on this subject, such as Isabelle Collet, have shown that it is closely linked to French and North American culture. One the one hand, the place of women has improved greatly since the 1970s in the hard sciences in general (I became aware of this by reading "The Only Woman in the Room" by Eileen Pollack), and on the other hand, there is still room for progress, particularly in computer science. Girls need to be involved more in computer science activities such as science fairs or the Al-Kindi competition (which involves the entire class and thereby enables a mixing of the sexes).
And then, at Master's level, I noticed that women went more easily towards teaching than research (or engineering), believing that is easier to find a work-life balance there - something that can also be the case with research. In France, we have a mistaken view of research and the computer science professions. Something that perhaps pushes women to turn away from this supposedly male field, when in fact at the beginning it was more female-oriented.