Breaking boundaries: how a career in computer science means you’re always engaged

Claudia, Associate Professor at The University of Adelaide –

In the realm of cutting-edge computer science, women are largely underrepresented. However, Claudia Szabo ardently pursued her interests, carving out a distinctive path as a female academic dedicated to the success of her students.

Born in Romania, Claudia graduated with a degree in computer science from University POLITEHNICA of Bucharest and went on to complete her PhD at the National University of Singapore.

“I stayed in Singapore for 10 years before moving to South Australia and commencing my academic career at the University of Adelaide in 2011.”

Claudia opted for a niche in computer science because, “no two days are ever the same. Every day in my career has been interesting and discovering something new.”

Claudia specialises in model driven engineering, distributed and cloud computing, the verification and validation of distributed systems and exploring issues in complex systems.

“I lead the Complex Systems research group at the University of Adelaide,” she said. “My education research interests lie in the areas of curriculum design, cognitive load theories, and software engineering best practices.”

No career is without its challenges, as Claudia explained, “There’s a vast difference between academia and industry; in industry, it’s about fast prototyping and testing out ideas. In academia, it’s ‘blue sky’ research and therefore results aren’t always guaranteed.”

Nevertheless, the fast-paced nature of technology means that the industry is rapidly and continuously evolving. “We are finally seeing the true capabilities of autonomous systems, reinforcement learning and cybersecurity analysis, allowing us to address critical problems.”

Over the tenure of her career, Claudia has received many awards, but her personal definition of success lies in the achievements of her students.

“It’s about seeing my students take on their own independent projects and journeys in industry. My students are my priority; I am focused on training them and supporting them in their study and future career paths.”

Defence SA caught up with Claudia in the lead up to the 2024 International Women’s Day, with the theme of ‘inspire inclusion’ at the forefront of her mind. “We continue to build on our efforts to recruit woman at various levels in academia.”

She added, “To be clear, it’s not that we don’t see women at higher levels of academia however, the problem lies in pipeline talent. Once you have got them in, you need to nurture them to thrive at a level that allows them (women) to achieve success.”

She acknowledges that the University cultivates a culture where women can succeed at all levels. “We run various initiatives to ensure inclusivity, gender diversity and opportunities, but I do believe that the mentorship of women begins as early as your primary school years. From the foundation of your education right through to study pathways and placements.”

Claudia’s advice to women wanting to enter and advance in the field of technology is encapsulated in one statement: “Believe in yourself.”

Looking to local industry advancements at the highest level of computer science, Claudia believes that South Australia is an exciting place to be.

“Geographically, the region presents a lot of opportunity. It’s also become known for its innovation, largely driven by people’s ‘can do’ attitudes. Adelaide is ever evolving.”

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