Episode 33 | Rada Mihalcea Interview
From a very difficult upbringing to a chance email that she wasn’t supposed to receive, which launched Rada Mihalcea‘s career in research and to the US, and to her eventually becoming a Professor in the US. Oh, and she got a second Ph.D. along the way (Linguistics Ph.D., after a CS Ph.D.)!
Our guest: Rada Mihalcea, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan [Wikipedia] [LinkedIn]. Director of Michigan AI Lab. AAAI Fellow, ACM Fellow, and winner of: US PECASE Award, Innovation and Technology Award, Aspen Institute, Romania, 2014. Romanian Academy Award for Science, 2010.
Some quotes from the episode, by Rada Mihalcea:
- “Do you want a recipe for success… it’s quite simple really – double your rate of failure.”
- “I nearly failed my AI class!” (and then she went on to become a top AI/ML/NLP researcher!)
- “I wasn’t the model student… I would never go to courses, never attend lectures.”
- “I grew up under a lot of hardship… and I always saw the positives of it.”
Also in this episode:
- Growing up in Transylvania.
- Growing up poor in Communist Romania in the 1970s, and 80s. Persecution of her family by the Communist Government.
- Never attending classes, optimizing for studies, gendered expectations.
- Life after the 1989 Romanian Revolution. Never being able to trust anyone.
- The “Administrative Mistake” that caused Rada Mihalcea to immigrate to the US and try out research! (this is a fascinating story!)
- Getting a second Ph.D. (in Linguistics, after a CS Ph.D.)
- Working with the government of Romania to create a PECASE (Presidential Early Career Award for Romanian Faculty) in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
- Philosophies for handling failure, rejections, Impostor Syndrome.
- The benefits of being an introvert.
This is the 3rd of 3 episodes focused on Romania.
More resources we think you’ll enjoy:
- Episode 33 guide
- Immigrant Computer Scientists Podcast home
- Resources on CS/STEM-related education and immigration
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