Women in Science Profiles

Dr. Andreja Umek Venturini

When I was a child, I really liked going to school where we learnt about new things and new phenomena from all kinds of fields. I also read popular scientific magazines appropriate for my age. In the last years of primary school I participated in different research and project tasks. Even today I remember a project from the field of ecology. We had a map of Slovenia on which we drew in different species of lichen that we had found. This map indirectly showed air purity in a particular area as lichen is a very sensitive plant. I felt this enthusiasm for new knowledge also in secondary school where I became more closely interested in three very different fields: archeology, comparative literature and logic. Towards the end of secondary school I started attending presentations prepared for potential students at individual faculties. In the end I decided to focus on logic so I chose the Faculty of Computer and Information Science.

During the studies we met with many interesting problems and we also learnt how to solve them. I did not imagine that my years of studying would be over so quickly and that soon I would have to find a job. I prepared my BSc thesis in the Laboratory for Automation, Biocybernetics and Robotics at the "Jo┼żef Stefan" Institute. While working in this research group, I learnt a lot and I had a very good feeling. This is why I decided to continue my studies in this laboratory. As a young researcher I received an MSc and a PhD degree, both in the field of movement kinematics, particularly with regard to the human hand. When the main part of my PhD thesis was already prepared, I decided to have my first child. After coming back from maternity leave I applied for a six-hour working day for a certain period and the institute did not object to this. My child could thus stay in home care without the frequent illnesses that the children have when they start going to nursery school. I myself could focus more closely on finishing my PhD studies and I soon successfully defended my PhD thesis.

The results in research of human hand kinematics can be used in rehabilitation of patients after stroke which caused damage to the left or right arm. This is why I from time to time also co-operated with staff and patients at the Institute for Rehabilitation in Ljubljana. Despite this I started missing working with people. At that time Slovenia was a candidate state for the European Union membership and as such it started to participate in the European Union's research and technological development programmes as a full member. In these programmes information and communication technologies belong to the most comprehensive fields. This is why the Ministry of Science at that time formed a group of people who started to work as the national co-ordinators for individual research fields. I decided to apply and I got the position of the co-ordinator for information and communication technologies in the European Union. In this way I keep contact with research and development in this field, not only in Slovenia but in the European Union as well. At the same time I try to help as many Slovenian experts as possible to become involved in international research projects. I know many of them from the time of my undergraduate and postgraduate studies which makes me even more pleased to be able to help.

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. Andreja Umek Venturini, reflect on their experience of being a woman in science.

Women in Science Profiles