Sonia Bogos receives a Google Scholarship for leadership in computing

© 2016 EPFL

© 2016 EPFL

Sonia Bogos, a doctoral student in the Security and Cryptography Laboratory led by Professor Serge Vaudenay, has been awarded one of the 2016 Google Scholarships celebrating women in the fields of computing and technology.

While the proportion of women studying the STEM fields - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics - has slowly increased during the last decade, the women who continue to work in research and seek academic careers, after their studies, are still far too few. Many organisations struggle to harness this promising growth by improving the environment to better reconcile family life and professional activity.

With this in mind, Google annually celebrates women in technology by awarding a scholarship to excellent undergraduate and graduate students in honour of Anita Borg - an American computer scientist, who fought passionately to lower the barriers, which keep women from entering the field. 

Sonia Bogos, an IC doctoral student and the winner of the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship 2016 for women, took the time to reply to our questions on her perspective.

How would you promote equal opportunities in sciences?

Equality in participation and presence emerges when we encourage a healthy environment, open to everyone. While the presence of women is low in some fields of science, this could be improved by promoting a correct image of the field, removing the prejudices and encouraging a strong collaboration between the two genders.

There are several initiatives to promote equal opportunities for women in Computer Science. While they are addressed more to women that already started their studies in Computer Science, I believe it would have a strong impact to offer such initiatives to young girls, when they are at the age of discovering and exploring their educational opportunities. Everyone should have access to education and culture, and everyone should be encouraged to follow the path that motivates them.

What advice would you give to any aspiring young girl who is looking into a career in sciences and in particular in Computer Science?

Computer Science is an amazing field, which offers a multitude of practical disciplines. We could not imagine today’s world without computers! Given this, I would encourage any young girl to think carefully in what field she wants to pursue her education. No matter what she chooses, the most important thing is to put passion in her work. And if she wants to participate to the technological revolution that takes place now, then she should choose Computer Science.

Do you have a role model?

Many people have inspired me through their actions and their words. I cannot say that I have a single role model. But, one of the things that I have learned from my parents was to always believe in myself and to follow and work hard for my goals. These principles have given me courage and hope in many of my endeavours.

What made you decide to pursue doctoral studies and perhaps a potential academic career?

Starting a PhD in Computer Science was the natural path to follow at the end of my master studies, during which I experimented doing both research and working in a company. The image of research has always fascinated me. I particularly enjoy diving into the unknown territories of the area of my research, which is cryptography, as it is a perpetual challenge.

The EPFL research environment offers me the chance to discuss and collaborate with both experts of my field and neighbouring areas. It offers me access to the latest research in all Computer Science areas, provides me with a great working place, and helps me develop my knowledge. The joy and satisfaction to work with good students adds up to all this.

What does is it mean for you to have received the Google Anita Borg Scholarship?

I am very happy and honoured to have received this scholarship. Applying for it made me think about the current situation in Computer Science and about how we could create an attractive and motivating environment for everyone. This scholarship encourages me to become more active in promoting equal rights and opportunities in Computer Science and to get involved in events organised for women in the field.

The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship’s purpose is to encourage women to excel in computing and technology and become active role models and leaders in these fields. The recipients are chosen on the basis of the strength of each candidate’s academic background and demonstrated leadership.