Women in Science Profiles

Dr. Nada Lavrac

I studied Technical Mathematics at the University of Ljubljana. After graduation I started working as a researcher at the "Jozef Stefan" Institute in the filed of artificial intelligence, intelligent data analysis and machine learning, with the emphasis on relational learning and applications of machine learning in medicine. In addition to doing research I was also lecturing: first for ten years at the Klagenfurt University, and then for five years at the Bristol University. Moreover, as research visitor I’ve stayed for more than a year at two universities in the US (Illinois and Fairfax, Virginia) and in Belgium (Leuven). These were truly valuable scientific and life experiences.

I am now the Head of the Department of Knowledge Technologies at the "Jozef Stefan" Institute and I am more bound to the current work of the department which is why I spend more time in Ljubljana. I am also a professor at the "Jozef Stefan" International Postgraduate School programme on New Media and e-Science, and at the University of Ljubljana postgraduate programme on Statistics, and the University of Nova Gorica masters programme on Engineering and Management. Nevertheless, I still travel quite a lot in order to attend international scientific conferences and project meetings. Quite often I also travel to Brussels where I am involved in reviewing of European projects.

The Department of Knowledge Technologies successfully co-operates with other European laboratories. In 2005 we collaborated in twelve European projects. We were most pleased when we were invited to participate in three European integrated projects for which we were chosen because of the successful accomplishment of the project SolEuNet (Data Mining and Decision Support for Business Competitiveness: a European Virtual Enterprise) which was worth three million Euros. Dunja Mladenic and I co-ordinated this project from the year 2000 until the year 2003. The main results achieved in the scope of this project were published in the Kluwer Data Mining and Decision Support: Integration and Collaboration. This is just one of several scientific books authored/edited by department members that were published by distinguished foreign publishers. My favorite one is Inductive Logic Programming: Techniques and Applications, co-authored by Sašo Džeroski, since this well quoted book includes the main results of my PhD. As the author and editor of scientific books, co-ordinator of international projects and as a scientist in the field of artificial intelligence I received the award the Ambassador of Science of the Republic of Slovenia.

Before I finished my PhD degree, I had worked a lot, but I also found time for my family, friends and sports activities. I have two daughters, I was in sports and I was an amateur musician. I often played basketball and tennis and after I had passed the coaching exam I held tennis courses for youth and adults, among others also for co-workers of the "Jozef Stefan" Institute. After I had received a PhD in Technical Sciences my work became more intense, however, since my daughters are grown up and are finishing their studies, it is now much easier to co-ordinate work, family and other activities. I still play tennis once a week, and in winter I like to ski and in summer I swim a lot as I spend most of my free time on the island Hvar which is my second home. Next to sports I also like music and film.

I have noticed that the attitude towards women in science is gradually improving. When I was first elected as member of the "Jozef Stefan" Institute Scientific Council, I was the first woman in a male society of scientists. I the past few years the number of women colleagues who are heads of departments has increased as well. The University of Ljubljana got its first female rector. In Slovenian economy and politics, however, such changes are unfortunately not yet noticeable. The society is facing quite crude materialism, striving for money and a general devaluation of humanistic values. At the same time, administrative and legal procedures are becoming more important than the content. The complexity of administrative procedures affect the lack of free time and time needed for high quality work. How much time is left to a scientist for intense scientific work? How much time to a teacher for actual teaching? Who still has time for in-depth thinking and reasoning? This seems as a kind-of vicious circle.

Despite the lack of free time, working as a scientist, having the lifestyle of a researcher and achieving success at work gives me joy and represents a strong motivation. Due to interesting research topics, international embedding, quality work, relaxed working atmosphere and an increased number of young co-workers, the department that I head at the "Jozef Stefan" Institute is becoming a magnet for young experts from Slovenia and abroad.

Women in Science Profiles