Excellence in STEM with Dr. Gabriel Moreno

IEEE Computer Society Team
Published 09/15/2023
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Gabriel Moreno headshotAs we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re privileged to converse with Dr. Gabriel Moreno, a renowned figure in computer science and engineering. In this interview, Dr. Moreno offers profound insights into diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in the field. He defines equity as equal access to opportunities, inclusion as fostering a sense of belonging, and diversity as a strength that enriches collective experiences.

Reflecting on his career, Dr. Moreno attributes barriers he faced not to his ethnicity but to factors like credentials and networking. He shares an inspiring example of how diverse voices played a crucial role in a challenging project during his master’s program. Lastly, he emphasizes valuing individuals for their contributions rather than just their differences, highlighting the importance of recognizing unique strengths in DE&I efforts.

Dr. Moreno’s wisdom and experiences shed light on navigating DE&I complexities in computer science and engineering, offering guidance for a more inclusive future.


What is your definition and meaning of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the context of computer science and engineering?

To me, equity is about giving everyone equal access to opportunities regardless of their culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. In that sense, equity is about making sure there are no barriers for people to participate in projects, engage with others, and make progress in their careers. Inclusion goes beyond that, encouraging participation and making sure that everyone feels that they belong to their school, workplace, team, etc. Finally, I believe diversity is a strength for any educational or work environment, in the same way that diversity is used as a technique to make software systems more robust. Having people from different backgrounds, with different educations, and who think differently all collaborating in the same environment can only benefit everyone’s individual experience and their common goal.


What barriers to inclusion have you experienced throughout your career?

I have been fortunate to not have faced inclusion barriers in my career, at least not because of my ethnicity. The few barriers were, in my opinion, due to not having a doctoral degree at the time, and not being good at professional networking. The former is arguably an issue of credentials in my area of work, but the latter was a result of my personality traits—although there is a spectrum, I am more towards the introverted side. Here is where inclusion efforts can play an important role. Established members in a professional environment (work, academic, etc.) could help others who are new or have difficulty integrating by introducing them to other people and giving them opportunities to speak or show their work to others.


Can you share an example from your education or career experiences where diverse voices had, or could have had, a significant impact on a project?

I was fortunate to be part of a diverse class when I was in my master’s degree program. A key part of that program was a year-long project developed for an external customer, but, unfortunately, my team lost our customer three months into the program due to their changing priorities. I believe the diversity in our team helped us deal with this issue, find another customer, and successfully deliver a project for them. Being from a Latin American country, I am used to facing challenges, making the most out of what we have and seeing the bright side of the situation, and that was my contribution to the team. Others in my team were from a culture that emphasizes extreme dedication to their work, so working long hours was not unusual for them. Others had better people skills and were fundamental in dealing with a new customer. Our diversity was a strength to face this challenge.


Given the importance of computer science and engineering becoming and being a more diverse and inclusive community, we strive to hear the perspectives of persons from equity-seeking populations. What are 1 or 2 ways such diverse perspectives and experiences can be solicited and heard without making the persons who share them feel tokenized or otherwise uncomfortable?

Although inclusion is about making sure that people feel that they belong to a group despite being different, it is important that they feel they belong because of what they contribute to that particular group, not because they are different. For example, I like to think that I am in a leadership position in my organization not because they have a DE&I initiative but because they value my skills and I have earned their trust to put me in that role with my efforts throughout my career. So, although DE&I initiatives are good for embracing diversity and preventing unintended consequences, I believe there is a risk of overdoing it to the point that people feel included because they are different and not despite that.


Learn More About Dr. Gabriel Moreno

Gabriel Moreno received a Bachelor’s degree in Computing Systems from Universidad de Mendoza, Argentina, and Master and PhD degrees in Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, USA. He is a Principal Researcher and the lead of the Formal Verification of Cyber-Physical Systems Initiative at the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute. His research interests include self-adaptive systems, autonomous cyber-physical systems, model-based analysis, and software architecture. He is a Senior Member of IEEE, a member of the Board of Distinguished Reviewers for ACM Transactions on Autonomous and Adaptive Systems, and frequently serves in the program committee of top-ranked conferences.