Career Profiles

Explore profiles of real professionals and students to learn how they got started, what they love about computing, and all about the fascinating work they do.
Robert Aboukhalil

Robert Aboukhalil

Ph.D. student, Cold Spring Harbor, United States

Degree(s):

B.Eng., McGill University
Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (in progress)
“Computing is not so much about computers as it is about solving problems.”

My first encounter with a computer was in 1999: I was 10 years old and my parents had just bought our first PC. Once they pressed the “on” button, the monitor lit with the "Windows 98 Setup” screen; I’ve been hooked on computers ever since.

Reading books and websites, I came to understand how computers work and how to write software. I also enjoyed reading about evolution and genetics, which led me to work on summer projects during my undergraduate degree. There, I explored diverse topics in the life sciences and applied my computational knowledge to interesting biological problems.

During my undergraduate degree, I enrolled in a ‘Design Principles & Methodologies’ course, teaming up with 4 other students to build two robots that collaborate to perform a delicate task: lifting a heavy object.

One of our robots navigated a field autonomously while avoiding obstacles and looking for the red balls scattered across the field. Once a red ball is found, the first robot communicates via Bluetooth to the second, and arranges that they meet.

Once the second robot joins the first one, they lift the ball together, after which one of them drops the ball into a designated container.

I believe that science without communication is irrelevant, which is why I made it one of my endeavors to communicate science to the public in an engaging way. When I’m not “computing”, I'm the Editor-in-Chief of Technophilic Magazine, a science/engineering magazine published at McGill and CSHL.

I'm also a Science Writing Mentor for the Journal of Young Investigators, where I guide students in creatively communicating science to the public. I have taught interactive classes at the DNA Learning Center to middle and high-school students about the science behind common molecular biology experiments, while guiding them through laboratory experiments they undertake.

Technophilic Science Communication Conference organizers

Robert giving talk about antimatter at NASA Headquarters

Robert giving talk about antimatter at NASA Headquarters

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Punch card from a COBOL program
Jean Sammet

Jean E. Sammet was one of the first developers and researchers in programming languages. During the 1950’s - 1960’s she supervised the first scientific programming group for Sperry Gyroscope Co. and served as a key member of the original COBOL (COmmon Business-Oriented Language) committee at Sylvania Electric Products. She also taught one of the first graduate programming courses in the country at Adelphi College. After joining IBM in 1961, she developed and directed the first FORMAC (FORmula MAnipulation Compiler). This was the first widely used general language and system for manipulating nonnumeric algebraic expressions. In 1979 she began handling Ada activities for IBM’s Federal Systems Division. Ada is a structured, object-oriented high-level computer programming language, designed for large, long-lived applications, where reliability and efficiency are paramount. Jean has a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. from the University of Illinois, both in Mathematics. She received an honorary D.Sc. from Mount Holyoke (1978).

Turing machine
Alan Mathison Turing
Alan Mathison Turing

Did you know that computing has been used in military espionage and has even influenced the outcome of major wars? Alan Mathison Turing designed the code breaking machine that enabled the deciphering of German communications during WWII. As per the words of Winston Churchill, this would remain the single largest contribution to victory. In addition, he laid the groundwork for visionary fields such as automatic computing engines, artificial intelligence and morphogenesis. Despite his influential work in the field of computing, Turing experienced extreme prejudice during his lifetime regarding his sexual orientation. There is no doubt that computers are ubiquitously part of our lives due to the infusion of Turing’s contributions.

Bletchley Park
Dr. Sue Black
Dr. Sue Black

Dr. Sue Black has demonstrated the power of social networking. She used Web 2.0 technologies to help raise awareness of, and critical funding for, Bletchley Park, the UK World War II center for decrypting enemy messages. She has also been an active campaigner for equality and support for women in technology fields, founding a number of online networking platforms for women technology professionals. A keen researcher, Dr. Black completed a PhD in software measurement in 2001. Her research interests focus on software quality improvements. She has recently won the PepsiCo Women's Inspiration Network award, been named Tech Hero by ITPRO magazine and was awarded the first John Ivinson Award from the British Computer Society. In 2011 Dr. Black set up The goto Foundation, a nonprofit organization which aims to make computer science more meaningful to the public, generate public excitement in the creation of software, and build a tech savvy workforce. Read Sue's blog about The goto Foundation: http://gotofdn.org

Router
Sandra Lerner

It is difficult to imagine a time when computers were not capable of sharing information and resources with great ease. Sandra Lerner pushed the boundaries of network computing as one of the co-founders of Cisco Systems, which introduced one of the first commercially viable routers. The router was born while Sandra was working at Stanford University in the 1980’s after earning her Master’s degree there in Computer Science. To avoid the tedious task of transferring information between computers using floppy disks, she and co-founder of Cisco, Leonard Bosack, created a local area network, or LAN, between their campus offices using a multiprotocol router that Bosack developed. Shortly thereafter the pair started Cisco Systems, and began selling the router which was a success, because it could work with so many different types of computers. After Leaving Cisco in 1990, Lerner started the trendy cosmetics company Urban Decay and became a philanthropist and avid activist for animal rights.

@ symbol
Ray Tomlinson
Ray Tomlinson

Have you ever considered that someone, at some point, was in a position to choose what symbol would be used separate the user from their location in an email address? That person, it turns out, was Ray Tomlinson, and in 1971 he chose "@". Tomlinson is credited with demonstrating the first email sent between computers on a network, and when asked what inspired him to make this selection he said, “Mostly because it seemed like a neat idea.”

After completing his Master’s degree at MIT in 1965, Ray joined the Information Sciences Division of Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since then he has made many notable contributions to the world of network computing. He was a co-developer of the TENEX computer system that was popular in the earliest days of the Internet; he developed the packet radio protocols used in the earliest internetworking experiments; he created the first implementation of TCP; and he was the principle designer of the first workstation attached to the Internet.

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