Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ada Lovelace Day: A Researcher I Admire

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a day we write about technical women we admire. Last year, I wrote about how much I admired my fellow CU-WISE executives. This year, I chose somebody that I bet will be surprised to see this. Her name is Michelle Annett, and I admire her for her kick-butt research abilities!

I met Michelle for the first time at last year's CRA-W Grad Cohort in San Francisco. We were both second year grad students, so we happened to sit at the same table when given time to mingle with our cohort.

I quickly learned that although Michelle was also a second year grad student like me, she was much further ahead in her research. In fact, she had finished her Masters thesis in January! She was going to do her PhD in September and work on cool stuff until then. She told me about the projects she'd been working on, and I just couldn't help but be impressed.

We met again at the Google Scholars' Retreat, where we were both finalists for the Google Anita Borg Canada scholarship. Michelle was one of a few students who gave a talk at the end of the retreat. She talked about some of the physiotherapy applications she had worked on, including virtual painting in the VR CAVE, and a robotic horse riding experience they were getting started on. Once again, I was excited about all the cool things she was doing, and it was then that I told myself my PhD was going to be different.

I got a lot out of my Masters, and I definitely learned a lot about how to do research, but I learned it late. I also ended up doing a project I wasn't passionate enough about. I know now that I need to do things differently for my PhD. Besides knowing how to be a more effective researcher now, I want to get my hands dirty with some of the interesting projects I've always wanted to do. I'm going to make sure I choose the right thesis project, too.

So, thanks Michelle, for being such an awesome researcher that I can look up to. Looking forward to meeting up again at this year's Grad Cohort!

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