Women in Science Profiles

Dr. Barbara Korousic Seljak

After finishing secondary school with a programme focused on social sciences, I decided for technical studies in computer and information science. What was the reason for this, I cannot really say. In the world of mathematics I felt at home already as a child and so I supposed that computer science would provide more than enough mathematical challenges in solving practical problems. My decision was also influenced by my parents whose example I wanted to follow and by my sense of duty – I wanted to seize the opportunity to study and to become independent. I have beautiful memories of my studies, particularly because during those years I met some really good and nice friends and colleagues. Since in my generation the number of capable girls and boys was approximately the same, I was not yet aware of the question of the role of women in computer science. I upgraded my studies with postgraduate studies at the Jožef Stefan Institute where a strong research spirit is present which has a positive effect on my work and life. I finished an MSc and a PhD degree, I experienced research work at a university in Great Britain and became a mother of three children. Although I have been active in computer science for several years now, I again and again get the feeling that there is still much more to learn and that there are still many more fields to conquer. I think about this particularly in the evenings when my mind wonders during ironing, washing children's clothes and similar tasks. I can conclude that I am happy in what I do and that my work fulfils me, nevertheless, it is probably just the feeling of incompleteness that permanently gives us creative power for our area of expertise as well as for our families.

My research work extends to computer science in which I have focused primarily on real-time embedded systems. In recent years these systems have become very popular, particularly because of their broad applicability. In my MSc and later in my PhD thesis I searched for methods of task scheduling ensuring quick, predictable and reliable operation in hard real time. In trying to solve the problem I decided to use a neural network and a genetic algorithm which both seemed interesting particularly because of the approach which was modelled on nature and was at that time still considered as innovative. Both methods can be implemented in hardware which speeds up and improves the operation of the scheduler. I try to transfer the knowledge I have gained to other fields as well. Thus I have been working on solving the problems connected with school timetables by using the Hopfield neural network, on optimisation of the rotor and stator blade geometry in an electric motor by using genetic algorithms and on computer-based preparation of menus for schools, nursery schools and hospitals by using a combination of classical linear programming and metaheuristic genetic algorithm for multicriteria optimisation. I am again and again drawn to problems which are in one way or another connected with mathematics and can be solved with a computer. And what is more, they need to be applicable in everyday life. Like all researchers I have to direct my energy also in publishing the results of my work in the form of articles and contributions at conferences. When I became a mother attending conferences abroad became a lot more difficult and this is why I did not visit as many as would probably have be necessary for quality research work. Fortunately, it is just the development of computer science which enables better communication over distances.

In the article (in Slovene) With male colleagues about the methods, with female colleagues about the use, by Anuška Delić, published in Delo, 30.10.2007, dr. Barbara Koroušić-Seljak shares her experience of being a woman in computer and information science, and how a woman can be successful with balancing career and family life.

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 Korousic Seljak, reflect on their experience of being a woman in science.

Women in Science Profiles