Portrait of Claudia Ignat, researcher
Claudia Ignat is an Inria researcher with the COAST team. Here she shares with us her international career, her vision of the research profession and encourages girls to take up jobs in computer science research.
I always liked mathematics and computer science at school. That is what made me decide to study for an engineering degree in Romania, specialising in computer science. I then discovered the world of research during a Master's internship at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, and I remained there in order to prepare a thesis in computer science. In 2006, I came to France to do my post-doc, and the following year I was fortunate to be kept on as a researcher at Inria.
What I like most in the research profession is the freedom we have to explore subjects we are passionate about. When we start working on a subject, we sometimes discover more interesting problems that we seize upon even if they take us away from our main research area. In a certain way, we are undergoing continuous training that we manage ourselves.
Another area of satisfaction is the variety of methods that I use in my research: development of the basic theory including algorithms, their simulation, the building of systems based on the theory developed, user studies of the methods and systems developed with users.
I am also proud to be able to say that some of my discoveries are now used in the industry.
All in all, my job is exciting! Unfortunately, few women are lucky enough to work in this profession. I think that this is due - in part - to gender stereotypes such as "computer science is for "geeks" and men only, and women are better suited to the human sciences."
I believe that many people still have this stereotype of the computer engineer, who is only interested in technology and science fiction and not in the human aspect. Most young people think that when you work in computer science research, it is not possible to have a family life. And so this becomes more complicated for a woman. We must absolutely change this image!
The media could show more female key figures occupying different roles relating to computer science. Schools, by introducing computer science to the pupils' curriculum earlier, could have these lessons taught by female teachers. Parents also have an important role to play, and must reassure their daughters by telling them that they can succeed in the field of computer science whilst still being "girls". I was lucky in that my parents (and especially my father, who was a university computer science professor) encouraged me in my desire to continue with my studies in this field.
I encourage girls who like mathematics and computer science - and not only that - to get into digital technology.
It is an exciting and omnipresent field, at the crossroads between mathematics and the human sciences, and has an enormous societal and economic impact. Furthermore, employment perspectives are high at all levels of qualification.