Women in Science: Manel Barkallah, the computer scientist at the heart of the language of robotics

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On the occasion of the International Day for Women and Girls in Science proclaimed on February 11 by the United Nations General Assembly, discover the portrait and testimonies of UNamur scientists who conduct cutting-edge research in fields such as physics, chemistry, mathematics and computer science. Today: Manel Barkallah, Research and Teaching Assistant in the Faculty of Computer Science.

What is your scientific field and what are your studies/research on?

I work in the field of coordination languages in socio-technical systems, i.e. systems that combine humans and software.

In this area, I study the formal mechanisms of communication and coordination used by agents (human or machine) in social and technological systems. I am also interested in how different agents work together to achieve common goals and use interdisciplinary concepts from psychology, computer science, and sociology.

In this area of research, my supervisor and I are trying to understand how socio-technical systems can be designed to improve coordination and communication between agents. Examples include air traffic systems, to coordinate the movement of aircraft in real time. Or quality control systems in factories, to coordinate production activities and the quality of the final product.

What makes your field so rich?

Coordination languages can improve work processes and outcomes for different types of socio-technical systems. It can also enhance collaboration and communication between actors, in order to strengthen trust and cooperation in socio-technical systems. And especially, to have a contribution to the resolution of complex problems in these systems by identifying coordination challenges and developing solutions to overcome them.

Do you think being a woman influences your career as a scientist?

Gender diversity can have benefits for scientific teams, as it brings different viewpoints and perspectives that can enrich scientific research and discovery. Nevertheless, women can face systemic barriers such as underrepresentation, gender discrimination, lack of recognition of family workload, among others.

What do you think could facilitate and encourage the career of women scientists?

Various measures are important. For example, supporting women’s participation in science from an early age through science education programs. There is also the need to provide training opportunities (professional and leadership development) and finally to encourage diversity and inclusion in the scientific community.

What message would you like to send to a woman who might be hesitant to enter the same field of science as you?

I would encourage her to focus on her scientific passions and interests and not be intimidated by gender stereotypes. Science needs talented and determined people, regardless of gender. Be proud of your scientific ambitions, believe in yourself and follow your dreams...!

On February 9, a day of scientific conferences and popularization is organized at UNamur, around the theme Women and Science. Objectives - To share experiences, to consider possible new collaborations, and to promote science among women by presenting inspiring stories.

More info: https://wgis.unamur.be/