Since February 11 is an International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we’d like to highlight the importance of women joining the science field and embrace this day by sharing interviews with two of our great partners. Meet Cati and Felicia!
Cati Martínez Costa, who just turned 40 this January is a post-doctoral researcher and a teacher at the Department of Informatics and Systems of the Computer Science Faculty at the University od Murcia.
1) Cati, where are you from and what is your job like?
I am from Murcia, a city in south-eastern Spain, where I studied computer science and where I am working now. However, this has not always been the case. After my PhD I moved to Graz, a very nice city in Austria where I spent nearly eight years at its Medical University. Definitively, I can say they were great years, both personally and professionally. Now, happy to be back to the roots, my job divides mainly between teaching and research at the Computer Science Faculty where I try to foster the interest of some students for research.
2) What is your biggest achievement?
This is a difficult question. Probably being awarded with a “Ramón y Cajal” grant from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, since it is very competitive and provides you with the stability you need to continue in the academic career. But also, being able to lead research projects at national and international level, collaborate with renown people in my area, and guide other people that are starting their career now.
3) What do you like to do in your free time?
I have little kids, so in my free time we go to the beach or do small trips somewhere not very far from Murcia. I think that now, what I like most is to escape from the daily routine and spend some time together.
4) What is Spain/Murcia like, what do you love about your country/city?
Murcia is a great city to live in. It has a very good size, you can go nearly everywhere by walk and in terms of using the bicycle it has improved a lot in the last years. I think there was a slogan for Murcia that said, it is “the city where the sun lives”. This is true, although in summer it is extremely hot. This improves if you are at the beach, only 30 minutes far by car.
Felicia Koerner, 26 year old Research Engineer in ALANA and a running enthusiast was another go to, when we looked for inspiring women.
1) Felicia, where are you from and why did you choose virtual assistants as your job?
I'm originally from Munich, Germany, and I now live in Berlin. As a teenager, I was interested in all things science, and chose to pursue materials science at Johns Hopkins because it combined chemistry and biology with engineering. Three semesters in I took a programming course and ended up switching to computer science because the problem-solving and logical approach was so much fun! When it came to applications of computer science I found myself most interested in exploring language technologies, and I wrote my master's thesis at the center for language and speech processing at Johns Hopkins. After graduation I was drawn to the field of conversational AI because it has interesting challenges, a lot of potential, and combines many different natural language processing techniques. Alana AI sits at the intersection of research and application and I greatly enjoy the opportunity to work with bright researchers and experts in the field.
2) What other projects do you work on?
RES-Q+ is currently my main focus at Alana. Before that I worked on components of the conversational AI system that's the starting point for all of our projects. At my previous employer, Rasa Technologies, I was in a similar role, doing a mixture of research and software development.
3) What do you do in your leisure? What are you interested in?
In my free time I love to run. I just joined the Berlin Track Club, but I've raced competitively and been part of different teams since I was a teenager. I just completed my second marathon in December and am excited to race some shorter distances on the track this year! I'm also the proud owner of a gravel bike, and like to go for longer bike rides around Berlin on the weekends.
4) What is Germany like, where exactly do you live and what is great about that place?
Germany has a pragmatic and dutiful culture. To visitors, it can feel like we are sticklers for rules, like not throwing out glass recycling at night so as not to disturb the neighbors, or paying for public transport even when there are no turnstiles. We are often reserved, and many of us struggle with the kind of small talk that comes naturally to Americans... as I had to find out about myself when I moved to Baltimore for my studies! But many things work smoothly and there is a strong sense of fairness, which can be seen in our work culture and social programs (even though there is still much work to do). The two cities I've lived in, Munich and Berlin, are very different from each other. Munich is sometimes described as a town because it doesn't feel like a city. It's beautiful, clean, quiet, and safe. It's also a very conservative and traditional city, in stark contrast to Berlin, which is much more open-minded and progressive. Berlin is a big city with plenty of things to do: museums to visit, clubs and bars to go to, and surprisingly many parks to spend time in.
Prepared by Eliška Stravová