My journey in Technology by Alimova Ilysear
We continue the series started last month, which features guest blogs from womENcourage 2019 participants.
Alimova Ilysear will share her career journey, challenges, what she loves most about this field, and how womENcourage inspired her.
I’m Alimova Ilysear, a Ph.D. student at Kazan Federal University, Russia, and I am also working as a junior researcher at my university. My passion for programming and the IT world began back in school when I wrote my first programs in Pascal, which eventually led me to obtain a degree in computer science.
My journey in the IT industry started with Android application development, which allowed me to improve my programming skills. However, after working in this area for a long time, I noticed that all applications use similar functions and the work becomes repetitive; I was getting in a routine without gaining significantly different new skills. Therefore, after starting my Ph.D., I moved to a different IT area and work towards a new career path: as a data scientist. The new path exposed me to interesting challenges. The daily tasks I need to carry out help me learn new technologies, methods, discover new information and overall develop professionally. I now have a feeling that I am in the right place for continuous self-development with lifelong perspectives over my career.
My Ph.D. research is on natural language processing issues in the biomedical domain. In particular, I work on extracting adverse drug reactions and relations between medical entities. These two problems are parts of a project that aims to develop computational tools for drug repurposing by exploiting complementary big text data streams. To solve these problems, I actively apply classical machine learning approaches and neural networks and investigate their effectiveness for English and Russian languages. For instance, in one of my recent study, I investigated the application of neural networks with interactive attention to classify adverse drug reaction. The experiments were conducted on texts from user reviews about drugs from health-related forums, clinical health records of patients, and abstracts of scientific articles devoted to biomedicine.
While working on the project, I learned how complicated and time-consuming the drug development process is. I believe that medicine is one of the most important fields where modern machine learning methods can help solve many of the issues and speed up the processes. I am very happy and professionally satisfied to participate in a project that helps solve problems associated with drug development.
Last year, I also had the experience of working with legal documents in Russian. Together with another student, we tested methods for entity recognition on the texts of the jurisprudence domain. It was the first step in developing a “Robot Lawyer” intellectual system. The main goal of the system is to assist lawyers and citizens in providing the necessary information regarding legal processes.
In addition to research, now I am also teaching methods of natural language processing. I like teaching because it allows me to structure my knowledge, improve my public speaking skills, and learn new things by answering questions from inquisitive students. I want to show students the powerful side of science, which enables them to solve global problems if they take it step by step. I hope, in time, more and more students will be attracted to science.
I feel fortunate because I am surrounded by people who are always ready to support me in all my endeavors, including my family, friends, scientific advisors, and colleagues. However, I have also faced various difficulties and barriers in my life. In my first two years of the PhD program I did not feel successful because I didn’t publish a single article, or get any significant results, and I was ready to quit. It is at that difficult time, I received a paper acceptance notification from a conference, which made me change my opinion and I continued with my studies. However, after some time, I changed my research area and supervisor, which resulted in things getting better, so I started publishing more articles. Currently, I am actively working on my Ph.D. thesis, while also teaching and working for the university. It takes a lot of time and energy because you have to work on the Ph.D. in the evenings and weekends. When it gets too hard, I remind myself how much I have already achieved, and all the effort I have invested, effort that I wouldn’t want to go to waste. These thoughts make me push harder to continue and finalize my work.
After defending my dissertation, I plan to continue to work as a data scientist, and I hope that our research group have exciting projects to follow.
I have never experienced any pressure at work related to the fact that I am a woman. However, I met women who experienced gender discrimination. One of my friends was not hired because the employers decided that she would soon get married, go on maternity leave, and will not be able to work. I also notice some girls among my students, who have a huge potential but are afraid to express themselves and feel less confident in comparison with boys. I want to tell women who find themselves in similar situations that they should not listen to any external negative comments, and focus on their goals instead. Before you back down and give up, think about how you will look at this situation in the future and whether you will be regretting your decision if you were to quit. If you love what you are doing, if your work gives you satisfaction, you will surely succeed. A hobby outside your work may also help. For me, going to the gym helps improve my confidence. During training, I achieve what previously seemed to me impossible. This motivates me in all the other areas of my life.
This year was my first-time I attended the womEncourage conference. The conference was well-organized, and the museum as a venue made the conference more unusual and exciting. The talks were all fascinating, but the one which I liked the most was the presentation about the underwater embedded systems and robotics, presented by the W-Sense company.
At the conference, I presented a poster titled “A comparison of neural network models for adverse drug reactions identification”. It was not my first poster session; however, I was still anxious. My poster was selected in the top 25, and it was especially exciting for me to present my work to an expert committee that chose at the end the best poster. During the poster session, I managed to talk with many people and also view the posters of other conference participants. I was impressed with two posters: the first one was about the intelligent architecture of houses, which takes into account the climatic features, and the second one was about the assistant program for doctors, designed for VR glasses.
Another aspect of the conference that I enjoyed was the Career Fair. We had the ability to have our resumes reviewed by HR from various companies, such as Google. I received valuable recommendations to improve the quality of my resume.
The coolest thing at any conference in my opinion is the networking. At womENcourage I met amazing girls from Italy and Mexico. We had a great time together at the conference and continue to communicate on social networks. I recommend everyone to participate in the womENcourage next year!