Indy Gupta
Published 04/20/2022
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episode 33 ICSFrom a very difficult upbringing to a chance email that she wasn’t supposed to receive, which launched Rada Mihalcea‘s career in research and to the US, and to her eventually becoming a Professor in the US. Oh, and she got a second Ph.D. along the way (Linguistics Ph.D., after a CS Ph.D.)!

Our guest: Rada Mihalcea, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan [Wikipedia] [LinkedIn]. Director of Michigan AI Lab. AAAI Fellow, ACM Fellow, and winner of: US PECASE Award, Innovation and Technology Award, Aspen Institute, Romania, 2014. Romanian Academy Award for Science, 2010.

Some quotes from the episode, by Rada Mihalcea:

  • “Do you want a recipe for success… it’s quite simple really – double your rate of failure.”
  • “I nearly failed my AI class!” (and then she went on to become a top AI/ML/NLP researcher!)
  • “I wasn’t the model student… I would never go to courses, never attend lectures.”
  • “I grew up under a lot of hardship… and I always saw the positives of it.”

Also in this episode:

  • Growing up in Transylvania.
  • Growing up poor in Communist Romania in the 1970s, and 80s. Persecution of her family by the Communist Government.
  • Never attending classes, optimizing for studies, gendered expectations.
  • Life after the 1989 Romanian Revolution. Never being able to trust anyone.
  • The “Administrative Mistake” that caused Rada Mihalcea to immigrate to the US and try out research! (this is a fascinating story!)
  • Getting a second Ph.D. (in Linguistics, after a CS Ph.D.)
  • Working with the government of Romania to create a PECASE (Presidential Early Career Award for Romanian Faculty) in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
  • Philosophies for handling failure, rejections, Impostor Syndrome.
  • The benefits of being an introvert.

This is the 3rd of 3 episodes focused on Romania.

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