Cristiana Bolchini is a Professor at the Dipartimento di Elettronica, Informazione e Bioningegneria of Politecnico di Milano, where she received a PhD in Automation and Computer Science Engineering in 1997. Her research interests are in methodologies for the design and analysis of computing/embedded systems with a particular focus on dependability aspects. She coordinates and has been involved in several EU research projects. She is the General Chair for DATE 2022.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in computer science and engineering?
I actually enrolled and got a degree in Electronics Engineering (Control and Automation specifically) and moved to Computer Science Engineering with the PhD since the area of research I was pursuing fell under that specialization when established in our department. My dad was an electronic design technician, able to fix most electronic appliances at home, and had a small lab with instruments. I saw how passionate he was with his job and thought it was something that could be right for me as well. My career took a very different path, I am not able fix any electronic appliance, but the passion is the same.
Being a woman working in STEM, which has traditionally been a male dominated area, did you felt this could be a disadvantage?
Being one of the few women (I think we were around 5% in my class at the university) made me aware of being noticeable but it never felt as an advantage or disadvantage; I think I simply perceived it as a statistical data… less women were interested in that kind of things.
Sometimes being one of the few women made the others wonder why I was there, and question my competence or abilities, but I guess I did not really see it or feel it as a problem.
As the years went by and emphasis increased on diversity and female access to STEM studies and careers, I realized that I was very lucky for growing up in a context where I could have chosen any path based on my preferences and ability, encouraged and not stopped to avoid being a different item in a set. However this is not true for everybody, and encouragement and promotion are key factors to enable females to understand that they should pursuit their preferred path, because there is nothing they wouldn’t be able to do.
Your research is very much focused on dependability aspects, in particular considering reconfigurable systems. Is this the reason why you came aware of the ADMORPH project? Would you like to mention any particularly interesting aspects in the project?
To be honest I did not came aware of the project, since I have been contacted. So, if you rephrase the question by omitting that part, I can provide the following answer wr.t. what I find interesting in the project.
My area of expertise is indeed dependability, having also carried out research in the area of adaptivity and self-awareness, so I find most aspects of the ADMORPH project of great interest, and I will monitor the project outcomes and results through the years.
You are the General Chair for DATE 2022, so we wish you all the success in your mission! Do you have any plans to foster more female researchers to submit their work and participate in the conference? (we hope this interview might help advertising and contributing to that goal)
DATE and DAC foster a “Diversity in EDA” activity to promote female (and underepresented in general) professionals and researchers; when I served as Program Chair for DATE 2020 I put a lot of effort in bringing diversity in the Technical Program Committee and I am trying to do the same this year. However, it was a tough objective, as female scientists in our field are numerically less than male ones… so it would be great to be able to see a growth in female presence.
I think one effective way to encourage this trend is by providing an example, by showing them that everything is possible.
As a computer science teacher, what would you say to young female students to convince them to pursue a career in computer science?
I encourage them to ignore the statistics and to pursue whatever they like… a computer science degree is an enabling ticket for several interesting careers, independently of the gender.