Interview with role models –...

As a part of project Caliper, an interview was published, with LARICS Lab assistant professor Ph.D. Tamara Petrović. The goal of the interview is to promote horizontal principles, equality, and representation of women scientists at the university and their involvement in projects. 


Caliper: Interview with role models 

Caliper: Please tell us more about yourself: where were you born and how your environment from childhood affected the person you are today? 

Tamara: I was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina; I spent my childhood in a small village in Istria - Raši. I was surrounded by family, several generations of family. My parents worked as elementary school and high school teachers, so there were books and papers, preparations for lessons everywhere. In that sense, teaching was always close to me, although my parents are in completely different fields. 

Caliper: What were your favorite school subjects, and did they help you in any way in doing your job today? 

Tamara: In childhood, I was interested in many things, and I had taken many extracurricular activities, almost everything that was offered in school. What was probably most crucial was that from the 4th grade of elementary school I started taking advanced math classes and going to math competitions. I had excellent math teachers throughout my education who had no problem coming to school on weekends when needed, and they are most definitely most responsible for my interest in the field that I’m working on. I was also active in other activities, such as majorettes. Geography, Lidrano, etc. From all these activities I have learned something and gained specific knowledge and skills for life. 

Caliper: Did you have any role models in your childhood and if so, how did they inspire you? 

Tamara: I didn’t have specific role models, probably mostly my parents and teachers who did their jobs with dedication and great commitment. 

Caliper: What motivated you to choose the career you have today? 

Tamara: I have always loved math, so much that during summer I would bring my book to the beach and solve math problems, to my parent's surprise. Later in high school came computer science and programming. Even though it was just the beginning of the introduction to the subject we did interesting things, and I loved that moment when you could just program something and automate it. I also went to math summer schools; those were very nice gatherings. So, FER was quite a logical choice, and then I had the opportunity to finish my master's studies, with an emphasis on scientific research work which allowed us to do a small scientific paper for the master thesis. I worked with prof. Bogdan and that was a turning point for me when I understood all the beauty of research work. 

Caliper: Regarding your career – what are you most satisfied with? 

Tamara: At this type of work, you are surrounded by young, smart, and inspiring people, always in the heap of new things and achievements in the technical world. The job is diverse. Most people when they think of the job of assistant professor, think of lectures, but a greater part of the job is participation in scientific projects with partners from Croatia and the world, writing applications for new projects, opening new research areas, and ensuring funding for doctoral students, mentoring of master and Ph.D. students. Collaboration with industry makes me very happy when we see that through our research, we can solve important challenges for them. Also, we travel often on research visits, conferences, and workshops. 

Caliper: Can you tell us about the project or event that you consider crucial in your career and was the aspect of the genre included? 

Tamara: When I look at the time spent at the university since employment, it is quite different today than 14 years ago. Then we didn’t have a lot of equipment, no big projects, and not even open access to scientific literature, which is a normal thing today. Then again, great things were being done. I would say that the turning point for me, and LARICS, was probably the participation in the first EU-FP7 project, EC-SAFEMOBIL, which opened the door to the European research community. We still cooperate with these partners today, and we already have a more friendly relationship. Thematically, that project covered the area of multi-robot systems management in warehouses, which is the research area of my doctorate, later a start-up company was founded from that research. But that's just one milestone, there were more, the ACROSS project which enabled us to purchase more equipment and networking, the AeRoTwin project, etc. I wouldn't say that the gender aspect was included, but in all projects, the importance and participation of as many as possible female researchers in the consortium were emphasized. 

Caliper: Currently an assistant professor at the Laboratory for Robotics and Intelligent Control Systems, LARICS. Can you tell us what pleases/excites you the most about the work of a docent and what is the most challenging? 

Tamara: To Research the latest things in the field and apply them to some new research problems that may not have been solved until now, all through working with students and doctoral students. I am happy to see the progress of the students and the satisfaction when they do something with their effort. Learning, new things, that's what's at the base of every job, but especially in science, and that's what makes me most happy at the end of the day. At the same time, it is probably the most challenging, because over time the time you spend on some administrative tasks, obligations, etc. increases, and the time available for detailed research decreases. 

 Caliper: Have you or anyone in your environment experienced gender bias against women working in your field? If so, can you tell us more about it? 

Tamara: I’m lucky that I didn’t have such experiences. As for my environment, I’m surrounded by dear people who have always supported and encouraged me in my plans and activities. Since I became an assistant professor, I have been on maternity leave twice and everyone was positive about it all. 

Caliper: How do you think people should approach gender equality topics, especially in your field, informational-communicational technology? 

Tamara: It is important to talk about good and bad experiences connected to gender equality because there are stories from both sides. It is important to try to be good at what you do and to be an example to others. It is important to encourage female students to get involved in this field because there are excellent female engineers and scientists, and I don’t see a difference in that. 

Caliper: What advice would you give, especially to young people, who are at the beginning of their career, and who struggle with gender discrimination? How to best deal with such a situation? 

Tamara: Although it’s not easy it seems to me that the best way to deal with it is by working on yourself, by making an effort, by learning and developing your skills at any job. This is some

Author: Milena Jenić
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