Women in Science Profiles

Dr. Krista Rizman Zalik

I have always been interested in everything that was new and unpredictable and I have always liked to learn and explore new things. I was particularly drawn to assignments from the fields of mathematics and logic. The computer, which I at first perceived mainly as a big machine, captured my attention particularly because it intertwines logical thinking and writing of algorithms which can do whatever you want. After finishing my BSc degree with a thesis on databases I decided to continue my studies and started working as a researcher at the University of Maribor. I have never considered the long years of studying which I finished with a PhD degree as a burden. Constant learning linked to computers and science must become a part of one's life as computer science is a fast developing area of expertise. In my opinion constant learning gives us guidance for all areas of life.

Nevertheless, I have not been involved only in research. I have also transferred my knowledge to others in an educational process. Ever since I graduated I have been studying and exploring databases. For some time I kept track of everything that was new in this field as an employee in a company which designed one of the most widely used databases in Slovenia and around the world. Some parts of my research were very interesting. I was particularly drawn to analysing the interdependence between huge masses of gathered data. This process is referred to as data mining. There is a saying about the present time: we are drowning in information and starving for knowledge. By detecting clusters of information on genes and of patient samples in huge databases we detect subtypes of diseases in gene characteristics in such a way that we can recognise them. This enables early detection of diseases, growing healing plants or breeding animals for food. At the core of scientific research are algorithms which detect clusters of genes, samples or clusters of any data in the quickest and best possible way. The algorithms for clustering can be used for analysing and searching of pictures and documents in the Internet or for segmentation of customers in banks or insurance companies. Motivation in research work comes also from accepted articles published in international magazines and from presentations of the results of recent research at international scientific conferences.

Scientific research is interesting, innovative and creative – every day it brings something new. Mostly it does not guarantee good earnings, nevertheless, it is very fulfilling. Scientific work cannot be outlined in advance, it is hard to plan it in days and the way to the goal is not always straight. You can have a good idea, but then the great tragedy of science strikes again – the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact (T. H. Huxley). Scientific work demands creativity, persistence and patience in accordance with the Chinese proverb: do not be afraid if you progress slowly, be only afraid that you do not come to a standstill.

My life is similar to the life of other women working in science or in economy. It is fulfilling, but on the other hand also straining. Children are unique and the same holds true for every moment of our lives. Several things need to be done at the same time. Women have to cook and at the same time educate their children. They have to work and play with their children. Different sports activities are combined with spending time with children. Women have a special role in children's lives. We are mothers – unique, and despite favorable maternity leave conditions in Slovenia, the role of women in children's lives depends mostly on employers, particularly on superiors. Mothers are hardly mobile which is bad. Today most interesting projects have an international background so stay-at-homes have become a part of the past. The society should help those women scientists and also mothers in economy who bring their children with them as they go to work abroad and refund additional expenses. In this way mothers would be more mobile.

There are a lot of exciting things to do in computer science and the development possibilities as well as challenges are endless. I have an open mind for new knowledge, I am eagerly awaiting new challenges and I believe that the future has some exciting prospects in store.

Women in Science Profiles