This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview leading scientists on their tour of China speaking about “Emerging Technologies in Computing”: Dr. Francine Berman, Vice President of Research, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Dr. Justine Cassell, Director, Center for Technology & Social Behavior, Professor, Departments of EE and CS and Communication, Northwestern University; and Dr. Tracy Camp, Professor, Dept. of Math and CS, Colorado School of Mines.
This week, I present Part 2 of the two part exclusive interview with Dr. Francine Berman, Dr. Justine Cassell and Dr. Tracy Camp.
Dr. Francine Berman is Vice President of Research, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. She is an international leader in Cyber infrastructure and an advocate for sustainable data preservation. She is an ACM Fellow, Professor, and first holder of the High Performance Computing Endowed Chair at U.C. San Diego. Dr. Berman is past Director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) where she led a staff of more than 250 interdisciplinary scientists, engineers, and technologists in the innovation, development, and provision of computational and information infrastructure. Dr. Berman is one of the two founding Principle Investigators of the National Science Foundation’s TeraGrid project (providing national Grid infrastructure), and also directed the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (NPACI), a consortium of 41 research groups, institutions, and university partners with the goal of building national infrastructure to support research and education in science and engineering. Dr. Berman has served on a broad spectrum of national science advisory boards including NSF’s Engineering Advisory Committee, NIH’s NIGMS Advisory Council, the National Academies Board of Research Data and Information, the California Council for Science and Technology, and others. She is currently co-chairing an international Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access with economist Brian Lavoie. For her accomplishments, leadership, and vision, Dr. Berman was recognized in 2004 as one of the top women in technology by BusinessWeek, as one of the top technologists by IEEE Spectrum, and most recently as a leader in science and technology by Newsweek.
Dr. Tracy Camp is a Professor of computer science at the Colorado School of Mines. She is the Founder and Director of the Toilers (http://toilers.mines.edu), an active ad hoc networks research group currently consisting of 3 faculty members, 11 graduate students, and six undergraduate students. Dr. Camp has received 13 grants from the National Science Foundation, including a prestigious CAREER award in 1997. This funding has produced (1) 12 software packages that have been requested from (and shared with) more than 1300 researchers in 64 countries (as of June 2008) and (2) several research articles that have been cited over 2,500 times (per Google Scholar, as of June 2008). Dr. Camp is an ACM Distinguished Lecturer, an IEEE Senior Member, and an ACM Distinguished Scientist. In 2006, Dr. Camp was a Fulbright Scholar in New Zealand. In December 2007, Dr. Camp received the Board of Trustees Outstanding Faculty Award at the Colorado School of Mines, an award that has only been given five times between 1998-2007. Dr. Camp is currently the elected Treasurer of ACM’s Special Interest Group on Mobile Computing (SIGMOBILE) and a member of the editorial boards for the IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing, Computer Communications, and Pervasive and Mobile Computing. Dr. Camp shares her life with Max (born in 2000), Emma (born in 2003), her stay-at-home husband (Glen), and two pets (a cat Scully and a dog Jessie). All six of them are vegetarians who tremendously enjoy living in the foothills of the Rockies.
Dr. Justine Cassell is the director of the Center for Technology and Social Behavior at Northwestern University, and the AT&T Professor of Communication and Computer Science. Before coming to Northwestern, Cassell was a tenured associate professor at the MIT Media Lab where she directed the Gesture and Narrative Language Research Group. In 2001, Cassell was awarded the Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award at MIT; in 2008 she was awarded the Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision Leadership Award. Cassell holds undergraduate degrees in Comparative Literature from Dartmouth and in Lettres Modernes from the Universite de Besançon (France). She holds a M.Phil in Linguistics from the University of Edinburgh (Scotland) and a dual Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in Linguistics and Psychology. After having spent ten years studying verbal and non-verbal aspects of human communication Cassell began to bring her knowledge of human interaction to the design of computational systems. She directed the team that implemented the first virtual human in 1994. More recently, Cassell has explored the practical applications of virtual humans to the field of learning. Cassell has authored more than 100 book chapters, journal articles and conference proceedings, and has given more than 50 keynote addresses at international conferences. Her work has been featured widely in the press.
To listen to Part 2 of the two part interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
What was notable about the experiences with the hosts?
:00:59: Justine: “….A true intercultural and warm interpersonal experience…Overall, each of our hosts went above and beyond what was necessary to make us feel comfortable….”
Fran, can you talk about your added lecture at HUST?
“….My colleague Professor Hai Jin had invited me to give an extra lecture. Our joint lectures were in the afternoon and I spent the mornings giving a lecture to his group and visiting he and some of his colleagues. In the morning lecture I focused on some of the SDSC cyber infrastructure, some issues around high performance computing and grid computing and focusing not so much on data. In the afternoon I spent more time talking about data….”
Tracy, what can you share from your visit to the museum in Wuhan?
“….I have many wonderful memories that I’ll definitely have for a lifetime. One of these memories was the museum trip that I had the pleasure of going on…We saw many interesting artifacts from hundreds years of ago, but the thing that really stands out the most was that we saw a tomb of a former king. This tomb was buried in about 433 BC. It was accidentally discovered in 1977 and the artifacts within this tomb were amazingly well preserved…. Anyone who visits the Wuhan area definitely should stop at the Hubei Provincial Museum…..”
What kinds of questions did the students ask?
:10:28: Justine: “….As far as the students were concerned we were really struck by the their professional drive and the fact that the undergraduates were already planning what it would take to get into graduate school including graduate schools in the United States. We were asked many questions about the best kinds of classes to take and the best study techniques….We were also asked about our research and we were struck by how carefully these students had listened and how well they had integrated the information in our talk….”
:12:29: Fran: “….Most of the questions were technical questions and questions about the US but we also got some very interesting and surprising personal questions. One of the most surprising questions was….how much time I spent being director of SDSC. My answer was that it was a time-intensive set of responsibilities and a very engaging job but I also wanted to mention to the students that I have a family and that I spend a lot of time with them and that it was very important to me to both take my job very seriously but that it was also very important to me to have a real life as well….All of us, both men and women, struggle with these issues of balancing a very engaging career and very important family interactions….”
:13:59: Tracy: “….We particularly enjoyed the questions we received from the students both during our presentations as well as the students who came up and talked to us after the presentations were over. We suggested to ACM that the next time they do these speaking tours that they also include a panel to provide an opportunity for the students to talk about these types of professionalism-type questions and life, work, integration-type questions, what do you need to get ahead and succeed – those types of career-type questions….”
What are the key differences between Chinese universities and U.S. universities?
:17:59: Tracy: “….One significant difference is that in China a student will complete one college application for the whole country. In the United States our students will complete many applications based on the colleges they hope to be admitted to. In China, a student will complete one application and within this application the student will rank several universities, the student will also rank majors that he/she is interested in. Then the student takes this exam and the universities use that exam score to determine which university the student is admitted to….”
:19:41: Fran: “….In the professor ranks (for the most part) in the US when you become a professor you can supervise students, teach courses, etc. through your own merit process. But in Chinese universities, the faculty that can supervise students are only some of the professors and there is some sort of criteria and some process to go through until one can formally advise students….”
:20:38: Justine: “….I was struck by how young the highly placed professors were….”
What are the opportunities for U.S. researchers in China?
:24:16: Fran: “….They were enormously interested in exchange programs. A number of people talked to us about short, medium and longer term visits between US researchers and Chinese researchers both at the student and faculty level….”
:25:14: Tracy: “….It is my understanding that China has this national program to try to bring native English speaking faculty to China to teach upper level courses in computer science and I’m sure in other fields….”
What impressed each of you about China?
:27:16: Tracy: “….We had the honour of experiencing the Chinese hospitality and that definitely impressed me. While we were there, at all three of the regions that we visited, we were treated like royalty and our hosts worked really hard to predict our every need and to meet those needs….”
:28:20: Fran: “….One of the things that really impressed me about China was the juxtaposition, (right in the same place) of technology sophistication and very traditional approaches….”
:29:13: Justine: “….I would add that the juxtaposition was very fascinating and it led to something that made me very happy which was that near these very high tech universities one could find some very old fashioned traditional food stalls….I also loved the intensity of the faculty that we interacted with. Their passion for their research, collaboration, and their passion to meet people from other places and to forge bonds….”
Over each of your distinguished careers, what are your top 3 lessons you want to share with the broad audience?
:32:12: Fran: “….Do things that you are really passionate about….Two really important skills to have are to be really strategic in your approach and to develop a tough skin….”
:34:31: Tracy: “….The importance of having a mentor….The importance of networking….The importance of scheduling fun, downtime…..”
:37:50: Justine: “….The importance of collaboration….Be a role model….Boundaries between fields and within fields are made to be broken. Good scientists don’t believe in the status quo. That’s what makes them good scientists….”
What are your views on unconscious bias?
:39:49: Tracy: “….Unconscious bias does exist and I think we need to be aware of it in the hopes that making our world more aware for the potential for unconscious bias will help us overcome any unconscious bias that we might personally have. This is true for both men and women….”
:41:36: Justine: “….One of the things that we hoped to achieve through our trip to China was to represent women as top computer scientists. We know there is a representation effect that student’s having access and seeing women in top positions, just that fact, can change their belief about who can be a computer scientist….”
:42:35: Fran: “….I think that unconscious bias goes beyond gender and my experience is that there is unconscious bias about leadership style. If you think about it leadership is really about getting things done…”
Please make your top 3 predictions for the future, their implications, and how executives and IT professionals can best prepare?
:44:28: Justine: “….The boundaries between fields will blur and in particular the boundaries between computer science and some of the other fields nearby will blur…..Unless we take into account the needs, the desires, the beliefs and the behaviours of people we’re not going to be able to design the best IT for the future….”
:45:57: Fran: “….There is increasing integration between the physical, biological and cyber worlds….The deluge of data will not stop….Looking at our agile social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr), they are going to have tremendous impact on the generations that are going to be leading us in ten or twenty years….”
:49:09: Tracy: “….Both Justine and Fran talked about the importance of interdisciplinary research, we are going to see more and more interdisciplinary work…Ubiquitous computing…..The processing power that casual users will have at their fingertips….”