Women in Science Profiles
Dr. Barbara Sket Motnikar
I came to the Jožef Stefan Institute as a student of mathematics. The co-workers at the Department of Applied Mathematics introduced me to programming, research work and also to marketing. Consequently, the topic of by BSc thesis was adapted to the needs of the institute and a bit later I joined the project called 2000 Young Researchers. In my MSc and PhD thesis I dealt with time series forecasting and pattern recognition. The work was interdisciplinary as it did not include only computer science but also certain parts of applied mathematics, e.g. probability calculus, statistics and optimisation problems. At that time young researchers did most of their research work (applying to the topics of the MSc and PhD thesis) at work. At home we only studied for the exams. This type of work was convenient enough to make research work and postgraduate studies attractive to many young people as there was still enough time left for family and other activities. My daughter was born two years after I had received my PhD, which means that scientific work and family were not competitive. After I had finished my studies, I started working at the Geophysical Survey of Slovenia (today the Seismology Office within the Environmental Agency of the Republic of Slovenia). This was agreed beforehand as I had the status of a researcher "for transition". For some years I also worked as an assistant for Statistics at the Faculty of Computer and Information Science.
I have not decided to pursue a career in science, and the computer is lately mainly a working tool, only from time to time different projects also require programming. My current work, however, still includes enough research assignments to stimulate my motivation and creativity. I work in the Section for Engineering Seismology and Earthquake Engineering. Our tasks include estimation of earthquake hazard, vulnerability and risk of Slovenia and of individual important structures, researches of local soil influence, statistical analyses of earthquake catalogues, evaluation of parameters of different models and analyses of their uncertainty. The methodology of all tasks enumerated is very much alive and offers enough unresolved issues which correlates with my vain of research. My work is the mixture of statistics, probability, logistics, computer science and routine. And, of course, learning.
The described development of my career was rather spontaneous. I did not follow in the footsteps of any of my family members and I did not receive much encouragement from other people. I liked mathematics and brain teasers already in primary school. What intrigued me most was the concept of infinity. I remember a story about a hotel with an infinite number of rooms, which is always full. And yet, when a new guest arrives, they are able to allocate him a room.
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. Barbara Sket Motnikar, reflect on their experience of being a woman in science.