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Meet Gabriella Mosquera, CSGS President

Posted by Emily Edwards, Gabriella Mosquera on November 9, 2015 in Students, Graduate, News

Tell me about yourself.
I’m a PhD Student, originally from Ecuador, working under the supervision of Dr. Vlado Keselj in the Data Mining and Natural Language Processing (DNLP) lab. Before starting my PhD, I completed my Master’s in Electronic Commerce at Dalhousie. I also love teaching and I’ve been lecturing for Dal FCS since 2008, although I really got into teaching back in Ecuador while I was a high school student.

Why did you choose Computer Science?
So many reasons! I found the math in computer science more challenging, and therefore, more appealing and fun for me, not to mention that I love the problem solving aspect of it. But there were also challenges with my decision to go into computer science. There weren’t many Latinas in computer science or engineering fields in Ecuador when I was growing up, and I wanted to change that, I still do. I I think it’s important for there to be more female role models in computer science, particularly in academia where you still see a large gender gap. 

What does your society do?
CSGS was founded in 2014 with the main purpose of representing the voices of graduate students at Dal’s FCS. We wanted to give graduate students a venue where they could ask questions or voice their concerns, and have a society that supports them, whether through organizing social events that enhance the graduate work environment or by providing them with networking opportunities to showcase their research work and maybe lead to collaborations. 

Why did you join the society?
I’ve always enjoyed volunteer work, mainly due to my parents. They were both involved in student societies at university, and always included me in their volunteer activities for the Rotary Club in Guayaquil, my hometown. In 2014, I saw the need for graduate students to have a society to speak up for them, since at the time there were a lot of changes happening to the various grad programmes at FCS. Luckily, I wasn’t the only on that felt that way, I’m thankful that I get to work with a great group of peers, from the 2014 council, Raghav Sampangi, Colin Conrad, Alex Safatli, Arun Salunkhe, and Armin Sajadi, and from the current council, Jeremy Porter, Daniel Yule, Dijana Kosmajac, Saurabh Dey, Sara Khanchi, Albee Zhan, Carlos Ureta, Bandar Albarakati, Antony Raphy, and Hossein Mohammadhassanzadeh. 

What made you want to become President of the society?
I felt the need to step into that role. Raghav Sampangi did a fantastic job as President of CSGS during our first year, and I wanted the society to continue on that path. We are also at a time and in a field where it is important to have female role models for students, so that they can also feel they can step into these roles. These are roles that give you the opportunity to partner with other societies and committees like the Computer Science Society (CSS), the Women in Technology Society (WiTS), and the Culture of Respect in Computer Science committee (CoRe-CS), in order to make a positive impact on the student membership and the faculty.

What do you like most about your degree?
I like the challenge that comes with it. I like the challenge of exploring different areas of a problem to try to come up with novel ways of solving it. I like the challenge of balancing teaching with research, and I like the challenge of teaching and explaining your ideas and concepts to students, and encouraging non-computer science students as well. I like the challenge of making a difference.

What have you found most surprising during your degree?
The large number of women doing amazing things in the field. My focus is data science, and the work currently being led by female data scientists at companies like Facebook, Google, Linked In, Capital One, Square, and Theranos is amazing and inspiring. 

The number of female graduate students in computer science has also continued to increase, which I hope helps reduce the gender gap in and outside of academia as well as help produce female role models for female undergrad students that are unsure about where to go next after completing their bachelor’s.

Tell me about the events your society holds
We have different types of events throughout the year. Our main event is DCSI, the Dalhousie Computer Science In-house conference, which provides a venue for graduate students to showcase their work. DCSI 2015 was perhaps our biggest conference to date and we were able to feature the presence of Dr. Kori Inkpen from Microsoft, who acted as our keynote speaker this year. I must say that the success of DCSI 2015 was thanks to having two great conference chairs, Saurabh Dey and Susan Alexander, along with a fantastic group of volunteers. Not to mention that we were also able to partner with WiTS in order to organize the first DCSI Women in Computing Luncheon, which had the attendance of the President of the University as well as the Nova Scotia Minister of Labour and Advanced Education.

We also hold an annual soccer game between the computer science graduate students from the Mona Campbell building and those from the Goldberg Computer Science building, we call it the CSGS Cup, and yes, there is an actual cup at stake! Mona Campbell CS won the Cup in 2014, Goldberg CS won the cup in 2015. Antony Raphy and Hossein Mohammadhassanzadeh did a great job organizing this year’s cup. Summers are beautiful in Halifax, and we wanted to have an outdoor physical activity so that students could get off their computers for two hours and enjoy the beautiful game.

CSGS Trivia is also very popular and started as an annual event but we now host trivia a few times per term. Daniel Yule does a fantastic job as a Trivia host, not to mention his questions are a perfect mix of pop and computer science trivia. These events are a lot of fun and give students a chance to relax, meet other students and have some fun. Did I mention we give out prizes!?

As well, during the holiday season we host a Holiday Potluck. Jeremy Porter proposed a potluck last season which went over well and will be heading this year's planning. The graduate student membership is a very diverse group. Having a holiday potluck provides students and the faculty, a chance to mingle and share each others cultures and traditions during the holiday season. Who knew we were all such gourmet chefs!

What was it like growing up in Ecuador?
I’ve lived in many different countries throughout my life, and growing up in Ecuador is very different than any other country. Ecuadoreans are warm and friendly people. I am from Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador, with a population of just under 3 million people, and located on the coastal region of the country. There’s never nothing to do in Guayaquil. Despite its large population, Guayaquileños are a very close knit bunch, somehow we all know each other. Family and friends are extremely important to us, which is why we have so many social gatherings a week, always gathering around the kitchen table.