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The career of a researcher

Lise Loumé - 19/03/2014

Alexandra Roatiș: "Research in computer science, as in mathematics, demands a high degree of creativity"

The third "Semaine des Mathématiques" (Mathematics Week) has chosen to place "Mathematics at the crossroads of cultures". This is an opportunity for Inria to put the spotlight on its interaction with other disciplines. We can illustrate this with the career of Alexandra Roatiș, a PhD student of Romanian origin and a researcher in computer science in the OAK team.

"How could I have studied anything other than computer science?" wonders Alexandra Roatiș. And rightly so; as a child her father, a database administrator, passed on his passion for puzzles, logic games and computers. And she vividly remembers the day he first showed her Google. "I spent my time searching for images and printing them" , she recalls. She was a good student and decided to turn her passion for computing into her field of study. As a Masters student at the University of Timisoara in Romania in 2009, she specialised in artificial intelligence.

Inria, land of passion

During her Masters, she carried out two internships in software development at Inria. This was an exciting experience. "I realised that I found computer science totally stimulating, because as with mathematics, you need to demonstrate a high degree of creativity" , she says.
In 2011, she chose to do her PhD in France, which allowed her to continue the work she had already started with Ioana Manolescu and François Goasdoué, who had supervised both her internships. "I would never have chosen to do my thesis in Romania, as the grants available for PhD students are so small that it is impossible to live properly" , she admits. So she joined the OAK team, which specialises in data representation and processing. Her thesis is on the processing of queries for so-called "RDF" (Resource Description Framework) data. This graph data model describes web resources and their metadata so that they can be processed automatically.

Art, Science and Travel

During her first year, she was also involved in the design of interactive software for the "Imagerie biomédicale : la vie en transparence" exhibition at the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris. In this context, she worked primarily on the Autoportrait project, an experience which was both artistic and scientific. "For the first time, I had the opportunity to observe the impact my work had on the general public. It was a very rewarding experience" , confides Alexandra Roatiș.
Since then, she has taken part in several projects within the OAK team, including one in collaboration with the University of California, San Diego in the United States, called "Languages and techniques for efficient large-scale Web data Management", whose objective is to improve the processing of complex data. "I went to San Diego with the team and presented my work", she explains. I might like to do a post-doctorate there, once I have finished my current work." She will decide at the end of 2014, after she has defended her thesis. Her next steps? "I hope to return to Europe, but perhaps not to France. I have really enjoyed my time here, but there are so many countries I would like to discover!"

Keywords: Team Oak United States Romania Portrait Alexandra Roatis PhD student International