Excellence in STEM: Dr. Nelly Bencomo

Associate Professor at Durham University
IEEE Computer Society Team
Published 10/13/2022
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The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force presents Excellence in STEM, with Dr. Nelly Bencomo, Associate Professor at Durham University.

In this interview, Dr. Bencomo shares working through cultural misunderstandings and offers advice on always being optimistic.

Why Did You Choose Your Current Technical Field?

Dr. Bencomo I have always liked Math, so as a teenager in Venezuela, it was natural to choose computer science because of the heavy math required. My research has focused on decision-making under uncertainty for autonomous systems during the last decade. I use Bayesian Learning techniques to quantify uncertainty to improve decision-making. I also consider myself a Software Engineer. Software engineering techniques allow us to use principled techniques to develop better software.

What does a typical day or week look like for you as an Associate Professor

Dr. Bencomo Reading, learning, and teaching. Sadly, a big chunk of the day is spent reading emails and in meetings. The high point of my day is enjoying learning with my colleagues, researchers, and PhD students. That time is fantastic

What’s been your greatest professional challenge as a member of the Latino community, and how did you overcome it?

Dr. Bencomo Cultural misunderstandings have been a big challenge. Latino Culture (Cultura Latina), in general, brings people who are either outgoing/extrovert or used to be in environments where people are or are expected to be outgoing and talkative. Sometimes, other cultures like the UK, countries in Northern Europe, or the US can create different environments from those natural to Latinos. It may create some misunderstandings for Latinos. To succeed in this new environment, Latinos may need to tune according to the situation while developing self-awareness. However, I have never changed much 🙂 I am still pretty much outgoing. My colleagues know me and joke about my outgoing personality. It has never been a problem; it has helped me in networking, which is very important in academia and research!

What is one piece of advice you can give Latino students and/or early career professionals?

Dr. Bencomo Keep working hard as you always do. Keep being one of the inveterate optimists in the group. Never change your Latino personality. It is a secret ally.

What would you consider are Hispanic traits or behaviors instilled by your family that have made you successful?

Dr. Bencomo Initiative, flexibility, determination, resilience, and a pinch of hope.

What do you miss from your country of origin?

Dr. Bencomo The eternal summer and sunny weather! I am from Venezuela.

What would you like to tell people about Venezuela

Dr. Bencomo In Venezuela, we are hard workers and tend to be happy. Being hopeful and optimistic helps lots in life.

About Dr. Nelly Bencomo:


Dr. Bencomo was born in Venezuela. She is Venezuelan and British. She lives in the UK, and she is an Associate Professor in the CS Department at Durham University. Since September 2020, she has been the PI of the EPSRC Twenty20Insight research project. In 2019, she was granted the Leverhulme Fellowship “QuantUn: quantification of uncertainty using Bayesian surprises.” Before, she was a Marie Curie Fellow at INRIA Paris – Roquencourt. The Marie Curie project is called Requirements-aware Systems (nickname: Requirements@run.time). Before, that she was a Senior Research Associate at Lancaster University (UK) where she also got her PhD. In her research, she exploits the interdisciplinary aspects of software engineering, comprising both technical and human concerns while developing techniques for intelligent, autonomous and highly distributed systems. She loves dark Venezuelan Chocolate. In her free time, she likes dancing (salsa of course!)