Women in Science Profiles
Dr. Monika Kapus Kolar
Successful development of the human society crucially depends on close co-operation between people and also between their machines. This is why nowadays, communication systems are expected to spread into every pore of the world, to provide their services at all times, efficiently and reliably, irrespective of the disturbances from the environment, and to promptly adapt to new user needs. The development of such systems is very demanding, as we are dealing with the largest technical systems ever designed by a man. Typically, they consist of a huge and changing set of dispersed, but interacting components, where their users also have to be, at least to some extent, treated as a part of the system, as communication planning requires consideration of all the parties involved.
My profession is that of a methodologist for the development of multiparty systems. My job is to conceive such ways of thinking about systems which are natural and clear for humans and which can also be efficiently supported by computer tools, so that in the system development, people and machines can work hand in hand, with all the routine tasks preferably carried out by machines. This research field is very exciting. Never before have we worked with systems in which the most difficult problems of system theory and computer science would manifest themselves so drastically as in the modern global multiparty systems. In the search for effective solutions to the problems, we are forced to look for new mathematical approaches – like physicists, whose work has always contributed to the development of mathematics as well. Besides, the concept of a multiparty system is so general that the developed ways of thinking are applicable to all kinds of systems, animate and inanimate, natural and technical. This gives us an insight into deep analogies connecting fields of reality which at first sight do not seem related at all. I have acquired the basic knowledge for my occupation with a BS in Automatics and a PhD in Computer Science. However, to those who decide to follow in my footsteps, I would for the above reasons advice to rather study theoretical mathematics, like most of my colleagues around the world have.
My workplace at the Department of Communication Systems within the "Jožef Stefan" Institute is for me a wonderful place where I can make a living from what I would do anyhow, because of my inner desire. Ever since I was a child, the fact that reality is an infinity from which we cannot escape occasionally amazes me with such force that it almost crushes me. This is why I can be happy only if I constantly try to be an increasingly clean and wide window through which the truth and beauty of reality can flow more and more smoothly and abundantly. The profession of any researcher is to respectfully touch things in order to understand their essence. The work of researchers in engineering, however, is particularly interesting and demanding, because they have to know how to touch things in such a way that they start sounding in unison, in new manners and for a good purpose.
One of the activities through which we learn about respectful and creative touching of the world most intensively is the upbringing of children (my husband and I have three such teachers, like we have always wanted to). I am, hence, not surprised when I repeatedly realize that in the today's flood of technical literature, those rare texts which stir up enthusiasm with their original insights usually have one more characteristic in common – among their authors, there is also a woman, although there are not many women working in my area of expertise. I believe that there is only one complete answer to the question what the society should do to increase the presence and advancement of women in science and engineering: Each and every person should receive lifetime active support for investigating who she/he really is and for living according to this. Women whose needs are slightly unusual and strenuously versatile should be included as well. Girls should never hear the sentence that I often come across even today, although expressed in different words: "Go out and play like all the normal kids do!"
The article (in Slovene) Creativity and Free Thinking before the Career: A Group Portrait of Nine Women who all holds PhD in ICT, by Jasna Kontler-Salamon, published in Delo, 18.5.2006, presents the exhibition Women with PhDs in Computer and Information Science in Slovenia. Nine women with PhDs in Computer and Information Science, one of them is dr. Monika Kapus Kolar, reflect on their experience of being a woman in science.