Role Model Sunday: Rosza Peter

For this week’s Role Model, my thanks go to the women’s department at TU Wien’s Student’s Union. Part of their campaing for yesterday’s International Women’s Day was to rename some of the most used lecture rooms at TU, giving them names of female scientists. This is how I found today’s Role Model: Rózsa Péter.

Péter Rósza. (picture from wikimedia, copyright expired)
Péter Rósza. (picture from wikimedia, copyright expired)

Rósza Péter attended Pázmány Péter University (the oldest and largest university in Hungary, later renamed Eötvös Loránd University) starting in 1922. She at first wanted to study chemistry, but soon discovered that her true passion lay with Mathematics. Graduating in 1927, she started to work as a tutor and teacher at high schools, but also started her graduate studies.

Begin told about Gödel’s work on incompleteness, she started to work on her own proofs in the field, focusing on the recursive functions used by Gödel. She published several papers, proposing to treat recursive functions as a seperated sub-field of mathematics, making her one of the founders of this field of mathematical research. In 1935, she received her PhD (summa cum laude).  As of 1937, she was a contributing editor at the Journal of Logic.

When the Fascists took over in Hungary in 1939, Rósza Péter lost her permission to teach, due to her jewish roots. Still researching and writing during the war times, she published “Playing with Infinity” in 1943, where she discussed number theory and logic for lays.

In 1951 she published a monograph, Recursive Functions, and in 1955, she became a professor at Eötvös Loránd University (her renamed alma mater), until her retirement in 1975. In 1976, she published Recursive Functions in Computer Theory. This book was the 2nd Hungarian book on mathematics to be published also in the Soviet Union, as the matter was considered essential to the theory of computers.

Some information can be found at wikipedia,and the websites of Agnes Scott College and the San Diego Supercomputer Center published short biographies referencing more interesting sources, too.

Role Model Sunday: Mary Lou Jepsen

Jepsen-Mary-Lou-headshot
Mary Lou Jepsen, picture (c) magazine.org

Mary Lou Jepsen is the co-founder of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) and an expert in the field of displays. Her work has had worldwide influence on head-mounted displays, HDTV and projector products. She created some of the largest ambient displays ever, and received a Master of Science degree in Holography at MIT Media Lab, where she was also part of the faculty for some years.

At OLPC, Jepsen developed the sunlight-readable display technology and co-invented the ultra-low power management system for the laptop. She also transformed these inventions into high volume mass production. The XO laptop is the lowest-power laptop ever made, and the most environmentally friendly laptop ever made and can sustain 5 foot drops.

In 2008, after working at OLPC for 3 years, Jepsen started a for-profit company, Pixel Qi, to commercialize some of the technologies she developed at OLPC. In 2013, she joined Google[x] as their “Head of the Display Division”.

You can find out more about Mary Lou Jepsen on wikipedia and her website.

Also I promise that the next article will be based on a personal interview. Stay tuned!

Role Model Sunday: Frances E. Allen

Frances Allen, (cc wikimedia)
Frances Allen, (cc wikimedia)

As the first woman to ever receive a Turing Award for her work, Frances Elizabeth Allen is for sure a woman to be seen as a role model. She received the so called “nobel prize of computing” for

[…] pioneering contributions to the theory and practice of optimizing compiler techniques that laid the foundation for modern optimizing compilers and automatic parallel execution.
(Association For Computing Machinery (ACM), Citation for the A.M. Turing Award 2006)

After earning B.Sc. and M.Sc degrees in Mathematics, she started to teach at a school in Peru, New York (yep, there’s a city named like a country). She joined IBM in 1957, planning on paying off her school loans with that job – but she stayed with IBM for the rest of her career.

Let’s hear some more about her from the ACM:

[…] she introduced many abstractions, algorithms, and implementations that laid the groundwork for automatic program optimization technology, […] introduced the use of graph-theoretic structures to […] efficiently derive relationships and identify opportunities for optimization. […] Her 1976 paper with Cocke describes one of the two main analysis strategies used in optimizing compilers today.
(Association For Computing Machinery (ACM), Citation for the A.M. Turing Award 2006)

And that’s still not all of it. In 1989, Fran Allen was the first woman to become an IBM Fellow. Every year, the current CEO of IBM appoints 4 to 9 researchers at IBM an “IBM Fellow”, which is the highest honor a scientiest, engineer or programmer at IBM can receive. The Fellow Programme was created in 1962, in order to promote creativity among the company’s most exceptional technical professionals, only choosing people who will also be making important contributions in future.

Upon retiring in 2002, Fran Allen received the Ada Lovelace Award of the Association for Women in Computing. After also being awarded the Turing Award by the ACM (see citations above) in 2007 (for 2006), she was awarded an honorary doctor in science degree at SUNY University, Albany. In 2009, she received an honorary doctor of science degree at McGill University for her work.

For more information on Fran Allen, here’s her wikipedia entry, which was where I found most of my information for this short portrait. Sorry if some sentences sound very alike, but rephrasing is a bit hard sometimes 😉

Also, if you want to hear Fran Allen speak about her work herself, you can find her Turing Lecture Video here.

We need role models!

Working with the Student’s Union sensitised me to the problems women face in Technology. One of them is that while there are no biological reasons for it, there are way less women working in Technology than men. There’s got to be a reason for that, right?

Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, at one point had less than 10% females majoring in computer sciences. As of 2006, an initiave was started to find out why, and how this could be changed. techcrunch.com published a video on how HMC changed their gender ratio to nearly 50:50. If you’re more into reading, there’s also an article on the changes on npr.com.

One important story told be all the young women the University approached asking for things that made them reconsider their choice of study is this: “People told me, and still tell me, that I shouldn’t try this. There are no women working in this field.” – Details may vary, it may have been questions, it may have been implications, but all in all, people tell girls, young women and also adult women that what they are trying to do is too hard for them, because no woman, or only very few women before did it.

So what I’ll be trying to do is the following: I’ll try to find female role models of all kinds of technology and science, and post something about them. One role model per week should be doable, and I’ll keep it up as long as possible, but at least until end of April 2014.

Submissions are very welcome, just post a name in the comments section below, or contact me on whichever channel that you found this post on. I’ll start writing the first post right away, posting it tomorrow: Sunday is role model day!

Computer Sciences, Social Sciences and Feminism

It started out as a joke. A friend and I attended a lecture together, a lecture on Social Informatics, which was pretty … well, not up-to-date considering the materials and examples that were used.

So one evening we decided we’d hijack part of the lecture that would take place the next day. The lecture room would be open for us from 11 am, with the professor usually arriving at 11.20 am – so why not use those 20 minutes, during which students would already be there, or at least be arriving, to talk about something more up to date than airplane crashes from the late 1990ies?

Continue reading Computer Sciences, Social Sciences and Feminism

Tag Clouds: How NOT to do it

Erste Bank is the oldest still existing commercial bank in Austria (wikipedia article, not available in English). Obviously, the marketing’s gender role models are just as old as their bank:

solid, family friendly, uncomplicated, informed, calm, transparent, consistent, stable, professionell, simple, accessible, flexible, modern
female role model

active, self-determined, modern, fast, professionell, dynamic, flexible, unattached, target oriented, informed, simple, transparent
male role model

So in Erste Bank marketing’s eyes, women are solid, family friendly, uncomplicated, informed, calm, transparent, consistent, stable, professionell, simple, accessible, flexible and modern.

And men? They are active, self-determined, modern, fast, professionell, dynamic, flexible, unattached, target oriented, informed, simple and transparent.

Those are serious gender stereotypes that should not be used by one of the biggest commercial banks in Austria. I hope they reconsider their marketing strategies.

P.S. Yes, I did take a closer look at that 2nd picture. Those extremely old-fashioned stereotypes seem not to be about how the person on the poster is, but what they want their investment fonds to be like. Still, those are stupid stereo types. I’m sure there are women who do like to experiment with new ways of investing their money in order to get a nice interest rate, just like I’m also sure there’s a lot of men who want to make sure their money is secure and will be available once they need it.

Bavarian Kitsch: Garmisch-Partenkirchen

One day out of the 10 or such that I spent at my parents’ place during the holidays, we took a train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a town in Bavaria. We had a nice afternoon walking through the old town, taking a closer look at some of the buildings (including the incredibly old library, and the newly renovated church), and had coffee and cake that could have been a full meal.

The initial plan also included to search for some geocaches, but as my Dad wasn’t too excited about watching me look for tiny containers “for nothing”, I decided to rather have a nice afternoon with my parents 🙂

And of course, I took a couple pictures, so you get something out of it, too!

The poem on the wall reads:

Dreifach ist der Schritt der Zeit,
zögernd kommt die Zukunft hergezogen,
Pfeilschnell ist das Jetzt verflogen,
Ewig still steht die Vergangenheit.

Keine Ungeduld beflügelt
Ihren Schritt, wenn sie verweilt.
Keine Furcht, kein Zweifel zügelt
Ihren Lauf, wenn sie enteilt.
Keine Reu, kein Zaubersegen
kann die stehende bewegen.

Möchtest du beglückt und weise
Endigen des Lebens Reise
Nimm die zögernde zum Rat
Nicht zum Werkzeug deiner Tat.
Wähle nicht die fliehende zum Freund,
nicht die bleibende zum Feind.

In short, it says that time has in 3 different velocities: Future arrives hesitantly, Present flies by fast as an arrow, and Past stays ever the same. There is no way to speed up the lingering, no way to slow down the rushing, and no way to move the stagnant. So if you want to be happy at the end of your life, don’t make the Future your tool, but rather your advisor, don’t be too fond of the Present, and don’t make an enemy of the Past.

Feminism for kids: Frozen

When I visited home these past holidays, my brother and I, his wife and son, plus some of her family, went to the movies and watched “Frozen”. The German title is “The Snow Queen”, as if it was just a movie version of the fairy tale, and what I had heard about it before had only referred to the movie NOT being true to the fairy tale. Also some of the comments I had read led me to believe it would only be a nice kids’ movie, but not as girl-power-y as, e.g., “Merida”.

But, oh wow, how wrong I was 🙂

I won’t be spoiling it all for the readers who haven’t seen the movie yet. To you, I say: go, watch it. It was good fun, also in German (well, I had to watch it in German, due to my company 😉 ), even with some unexpected turns and all.

So, to let you know what I LOVED about this movie, let me quote the short conversation I had with my nephew on our way home:

Me: See, in most movies, the girls need a boy to help them get out of trouble. But that’s not true. You saw in this movie, that girls indeed CAN get themselves out of trouble, right?

Him: Yes, right. There is this one girl in school, she never needs help when fighting with the boys. She is a pretty good fighter!

Cute. Next time I’m home, I hope I’ll have time to watch some more movies like that with him 🙂  Any recommendations from your side?

Small plans instead of big resolutions

Most people have one big New Year’s Resolution, and struggle with it. A way better idea that I heard during my stay at my parent’s place, in a Sunday morning interview with one of my favourite authors, Thomas Brezina (wikipedia), is the following:

Don’t make one big resolution. Try to think of a couple of things that you’d like to do during the upcoming year. Write them down, and during 2014, check every once in a while how you are doing on completing those plans.

So here are my plans for 2014:

  • find about 170 geocaches, so my total will be at least 500 by the end of 2014
  • walk another 2 parts of Lechweg with my mum
  • hike up Säuling, a mountain near my hometown, also with my mum
  • finally complete the trail that goes all around Vienna (“Rundumadum”)
  • make use of my Niederösterreich Card
  • complete courses worth 30 ECTS per semester, so I’ll finish my Bachelor’s degree within 8 semester in sum

and of course, the classic thing: restart going to Yoga and Gymnastics classes on a weekly basis.

Did you make a resolution? Or do you have plans, like I do?

Geocaching Frenzy

Last week, I realized that my current number of found Geocaches was nearing 290, so I decided that it could not be that this year would end without my at least finding another 10 Geocaches and thus hitting 300 found and logged Geocaches.

For this purpose, I started a thread on the Vienna Group in bewelcome, asking for people to join me. Lo and Behold, some people actually replied to it (either in the thread or via direct message), and asking some more friends in person, I ended up with a group of 4 other women who would join me on a Saturday in the late morning to go and hunt some Geocaches in the outskirts of Vienna, and at least 2 who would join me on Sunday, too.

The hike on Saturday in the Nussdorf area was about 5 km long, and we found all the Geocaches along the route, scoring a total of 16 found Geocaches in one day. That means that I not only achieved my goal of reaching 300 before New Year’s, but I even managed to surpass my to-date best Geocaching day 🙂

On Sunday, only 2 of the group were left: me and Anna whom I met at the WienTut. We met up at Schwarzenbergpark and logged one earthcache and 6 traditionals. Of the 6 traditionals, 4 had a Terrain rating of 2 or higher – because they were hidden in trees and I had to climb up to get them. It was great fun 🙂

So my current score is 320 found Geocaches – and I’m already looking for people who will join me on some short trips to cities in the area surrounding my home town around Christmas 🙂