New Podcast! Immigrant Computer Scientists hosted by Indy Gupta

IEEE Computer Society
Published 09/08/2021
Share this on:

Like stories? About immigrants? Who are also Computer Scientists? In the Immigrant Computer Scientists Podcast, distinguished and renowned Computer Scientists from both academia and industry narrate their personal experiences of immigrating from where they grew up, to a completely different land (often the US), for study, work, or other reasons. This podcast, featuring these oral history interviews, is intended for a general audience, and does not require you to know Computer Science or Math or any science, or even be an immigrant! We neither draw conclusions nor take sides in any political debate—this podcast documents experiences. Listen, Enjoy, Learn! For more information and episode guides visit: 


Stay Alert

Subscribe to Immigrant Computer Scientists on:


Host: Indy Gupta


Indy Gupta is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Indy leads the Distributed Protocols Research Group, where he works on large-scale distributed systems. He is the recipient of the NSF CAREER award in 2005, the Junior Xerox Award for Faculty Research in 2008, the CAS/Beckman Fellowship in 2009, and the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership Faculty Fellowship in 2010. Indy has won Best Paper Awards at IEEE/ACM CCGrid 2017, IEEE IC2E 2016, IEEE ICAC 2015, and BigMine 2012. He received teaching recognition in the UIUC “List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent” multiple times since 2003. He served as General Chair of ACM PODC 2007; PC co-chair at HotCloud 2018, IC2E 2017, ICCAC 2016, DeMIST 2016, ACM/IFIP/Usenix Middleware 2010, IEEE SASO 2010. He has worked at Google, IBM Research, and Microsoft Research. Previously, Indy received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Cornell University in 2004, and a Bachelor of Technology (Computer Science) from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Chennai/Madras, in 1998. Indy also hosts a music radio show called “East of Zero” on community radio station WEFT 90.1 FM in Champaign, Illinois.


Episode 1From A Country That No Longer Exists

In this inaugural episode, host Indy Gupta speaks with Nenad Medvidovic (IEEE Fellow, Professor at USC), Jelena Mirkovic (Research Professor at USC), and Dejan Milojicic (IEEE Fellow, Distinguished Technologist at HP Labs), discussing their immigration from the former Yugoslavia in the 1980s and 1990s and how they adapted in the United States. Highlights of this talk include how each of these guests navigated failure, rejection, and imposter syndrome.


Episode 2Nenad Medvidovic Interview

This episode is the second in a four-part series about computer scientists who immigrated from the former Yugoslavia in pursuit of education and career. This week’s host, Indy Gupta,  interviews Nenad Medvidovic about his journey coming to the United States with little to no English, and how he was able to transform failure and rejection into becoming a professor, leader in the software community, and an IEEE Fellow.


Episode 3Jelena Mirkovic Interview

Hear how a key mentor showed her the way. Also, she went to university in Belgrade during the Yugoslav War of the 1990s. Hear Jelena Mirkovic’s story of her origins in the former Yugaslavia to her immigration to the United States.


Episode 4Dejan Milojicic Interview

The fourth and final installment of the Yugoslavia segment of the podcast.  Moonlighting in Yugoslavia 1980s tech sector, managing family with kids doing his Ph.D. in Europe, dealing with plans that never work out… Dejan’s four lessons from life, and much more! Full interview with Dejan Milojicic, Distinguished Technologist at Hewlett Packard Labs, and IEEE Fellow.


Episode 5To and Fro

Academia or Industry? Immigrate permanently or return to home country? CS or non-CS? These choices were faced by the 3 prominent computer scientists who are featured on the next segment of this podcast. Explore the challenges and choices faced by three prominent computer scientists from Latin America.


Episode 6 – Rico Malvar Interview

Have you ever used a computer with a Punched Card? Want to know what it feels like? Also, he grew up under the Brazil military rule/dictatorship, in a household with 2 Professors as parents, then went on to become a professor himself. Former director of Microsoft Research (currently Distinguished Engineer), NAE member, IEEE Fellow, and professor from Brazil, shares life-changing advice. Learn more about Rico Malvar’s move from Brazilian academia into the US industry, and then rose to become the Director of the entire Microsoft Research Labs.


Episode 7 – Dilma da Silva Interview

If you are trying to decide between academia vs. industry, her advice could pivot your career! While she spent over a decade in industry, she never paid attention to the stock price and always felt like a teacher at heart. So she left the industry to return to academia, and become the Department Head of CSE Dept. at Texas A&M University. She co-founded the national group “Latinas in Computing”. Wow!


Episode 8 – Rodrigo Fonseca Interview

He stood first among 42K students in Brazil’s entrance exam, and then he chose Architecture (the buildings kind, not the Computer kind)! Then he became a… Computer Science Professor! Got tenure, then left for Microsoft Research.

Are you still undecided between a career in academia and industry? Then this episode will have many tidbits and advice for you!


Episode 9 – Middle East Entrepreneurs

This week we visit Iran and Lebanon and talk to two early-career and already-successful entrepreneurs. Also in this episode: Discovering the Entrepreneur gene; The Immigrant Gene; Arabic and Farsi languages; Studying for SAT exam in Lebanon in the middle of a war; Highly competitive Konkour entrance exam in Iran; Impostor Syndrome; Sshh, the secret to a woman managing a family and a career simultaneously!


Episode 10Soodeh Farokhi Interview

Why is software/computer engineering considered more “woman-friendly” in some countries (like Iran)? Does a Ph.D. help one be a better entrepreneur? How the VCs panicked when they heard of her pregnancy, and how Soodeh calmed them! Why did she choose not to immigrate to the US? Hear about these questions, and Soodeh Farokhi’s amazing journey, in her calm, strong voice, filled with sage wisdom.

Episode 11Fadel Adib Interview

This episode covers a lot of ground. Fadel shares advice for faculty, young entrepreneurs, students in academia. Additionally, he dives into how he got his position at MIT and drops a few nuggets along the way on how to successfully send a cold email to inquire about a job opening.


Episode 12Amr El Abbadi

Hear from a world leader in databases. His home country of Egypt didn’t afford him the experience of research, so how did he become a researcher? Listen in to this episode with Amr El Abbadi, loaded with nuggets of advice collected from decades of experience.


Episode 13Jelani Nelson interview

Jelani Nelson shares stories from his early years and the culture around education in the US Virgin Islands. He also shares insights he’s learned starting one of the most successful CS programs for kids in Africa.


Episode 14Danqi Chen Interview

Guest, Danqi Chen, talks about her journey through education at Tsinghua University to becoming a machine learning and natural language processing researcher.


Episode 15 – Anonymous

Listen to stories from three anonymous computer scientists as they share their harrowing experiences to immigrate and pursue their life, education, and career. Because all guests are anonymous, this episode is narrated by host, Indy Gupta.


Episode 16Impostor Syndrome

In this week’s episode, 10 prominent Computer Scientists from academia and industry talk about how they handle impostor syndrome, failures, and rejections.


Episode 17 – Effect of the Balkan Wars

Three computer scientists from the former Yugoslavia, who immigrated to the US in the 1980s-1990s, talk about the effect of the Balkan Wars on their lives and their families.


Episode 18Effect of Wars in Lebanon & Egypt

Two Computer Scientists from Lebanon and Egypt, who immigrated to the US in the 1980s and 2000s, talk about the effect of the wars in their home countries on their lives and their families, in the 1960s, 70s, 90s, and 2000s.


Episode 19 – Academia vs. Industry

Four Computer Scientists, who spent significant time as both faculty and in industry, talk about Industry vs. Academia. Many of you have gone through, or maybe going through, similar thoughts or dilemmas! Also, a fun comparison of the culture of the US East Coast. vs US West Coast.


Episode 20 CS in the 1970s and 80s, on Three Continents

What was computer science education like in the 1970s and 1980s? Were there even computer science departments in American universities yet? Tune in to get the answers to these questions…you might be surprised at what you hear!