Young Researchers in Science and Engineering – Interview with Rada Mihalcea

This summer we had the opportunity to be involved in the competition “Young Researchers in Science and Engineering” (Tineri Cercetatori in Stiinta si Inginerie), organised by Prof. Rada Mihalcea together with the Cluj-Napoca Town Hall. Rada Mihalcea, founder of this competition, is a renowned Romanian researcher in the areas of Artificial Intelligence & Interactive Systems.

Working as an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan in the U.S., Rada Mihalcea was honoured by President Barack Obama in 2010 as one of the winners of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honour a beginning scientist or engineer can receive in the United States. Moreover, she has received several awards and recognitions worth mentioning:

  • “Google Awards Grant”, 2005
  • “Career Award” granted by the National Science Foundation in the U.S., 2008
  • “Who’s Who of American Women”, 2008-2009 (a publication featuring the most important women in the US from all fields) etc.

Last year, Rada has also been named an honorary citizen of Cluj-Napoca. Although this title is not as impressive as her other awards and recognitions, she admits that this title is dearest to her.

Rada Mihalcea Young Researchers in Science and EngineeringSource: www.eecs.umich.edu

At the award ceremony of the Young Researchers in Science and Engineering competition, I had the pleasure of meeting Rada personally and the chance to ask her a few questions. This is what she told me:

CO: How did the idea of the competition Young Researchers in Science and Engineering occur to you?

RM: Lately there has been an increased interest in science and engineering, and in forming the next generations in these fields – especially due to the lack of people with experience in science and engineering. I have to admit that I was also inspired by the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers conferred annually in the U.S.

CO: How would you describe the young Romanian researchers in science and engineering?

RM: Innovative and passionate. Now that the first edition of the competition is over and after seeing all the received applications, I have to say that I am very impressed with the research these young Romanians are conducting. Many applicants are freshly done with their doctoral studies and already have many great achievements. There are also young people who finished their doctoral studies awhile back and are conducting internationally recognized research programmes.

CO: What does it mean to innovate in Romania?

RM: Generally, it means having a lot of passion and perseverance. In Romania maybe even more than in other places. Romania is still at the beginning of this road and the people conducting research require a lot of passion and perseverance because many people in the government and administration still don’t see research as a priority.

CO: What advice would you give to young people who want to innovate in our country?

RM: To keep on going despite all obstacles they are facing and to learn to see beyond the now. Many times (small) temptations are all around us, but the (big) achievements can only be seen farther down the road.

We would like to thank Rada Mihalcea for her time and we are looking forward to hearing about her future awards and recognitions.

What is your perspective on innovation in Romania and on our young researchers? Leave us a comment in the section below!

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