Terézia Slanináková: I Use Theoretical Knowledge to Solve Practical Problems

2 Oct 2023

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The newly acquired title of RNDr. and publication of an article in the scientific journal Information Systems. We talked about recent successes and other topics with Terézia Slanináková, Ph.D. student and researcher from Tom Rebok's team. Among other things, she revealed how it is for her as a woman to work in a field where there is still a majority of men, or what specifics she sees in the upcoming generation of young computer scientists.

Terka, you recently received the RNDr. title, for which we congratulate you! What was topic of your dissertation proposal?

Thank you! I take it as an intermediate step on my way to a Ph.D., where I am dedicated to similarity searches in complex data (e.g. protein structures) using machine learning. Therefore, in the dissertation proposal, I elaborated on this topic - what are the traditional approaches of searching by similarity and what are the new trends at the interface of AI and databases.

Does the work on the projects you implement at ICS MUNI have an effect on your further education (Ph.D. study)?

Absolutely. Ph.D. study at Faculty of Informatics has a great overlap with activities at ICS, whether it is applying acquired knowledge or methods to more practical problems that we solve at work, closer contact with students, or the ability to reach out to more people for cooperation. I am also of the opinion that Ph.D. study shapes a person in a unique way, and one is then able to contribute much more professionally than if one joined the workforce immediately after completing the standard length of study. At least that's how I observe it with myself.

„Ph.D. study shapes a person in a unique way, and he is then able to contribute much more professionally than if he went into practice immediately after completing the standard length of study.“

The scientific journal Information Systems has published an article on the reproducibility of your experiments to you and your research group (Intelligent Systems for Complex Data Group led by assoc. prof. Dohnal and Dr. Antol). Could you please briefly explain what it is about?

The article was created to make available the data, code, and process by which we arrived at the experiments in our previous publication. All these artifacts are also publicly available, so any researcher interested in our research can easily reproduce it from scratch. With this article, we wanted to contribute to mitigating the replication crisis, at least in the context of our work - and also to tidy up our own research process. At the same time, we were lucky to have a medium that supports such an effort. I strongly hope that work of this kind will be the standard in the future, and I highly recommend it to any researcher.

In addition to your own studies and work at ICS, you also teach at the Faculty of Informatics. Would you try to explain to us what is special about the future generation of computer scientists? Do you see a shift from when you were their age?

I don't have much teaching experience yet, but in the future I plan to continue at least with leading seminar groups. It gives me pleasure to pass on knowledge to younger colleagues. I guess I can't say that I observe big differences in people as such, it's just the tools and technologies that are changing that lead to greater individual productivity. A prime example from the last year is the shift in generative AI of various kinds - for the AI ​​pair-programmer tools such as Copilot are mainly relevant. It makes no sense from a student's point of view to defend these tools, just as it makes no sense from an educational and academic point of view to punish their use. I therefore appreciate Masaryk University's sober stance on the use of AI.

„I very much hope that the stereotypes about which gender is suitable for which job are gradually disappearing. And in a few years there will be no need to ask this question.“

We have to ask this. As a woman, how do you work in a field that is still dominated by men? Are there still any prejudices? Have you met them?

99.9% of the time I don't notice it at all. The rest are situations where I feel a change in the atmosphere because of it - and it can be unpleasant. I have encountered a few prejudices in my 8 years in IT, but the older I get, the fewer there are or the better they are disguised. I very much hope that the stereotypes about which gender is suitable for which job are gradually disappearing. And in a few years there will be no need to ask this question.

A popular question addressed to Slovaks at Czech and Moravian universities. Why did you choose MUNI, a university in Brno in the Czech Republic, for your studies and work?

​​I knew that Slovaks in the Czech Republic study relatively comfortably, that the generations before me fought for, for example, the possibility of writing final theses in Slovak, and that the practical obstacles to studying and living in the Czech Republic are minimal. I decided primarily between Bratislava and Brno. In addition to the quality of the university, I also took into account how the city would suit me - and Brno won. Even though in my bachelor's studies I finally decided on BUT and not MUNI, where I entered only for the follow-up master's degree.

RNDr. Terézia Slanináková

Research and development worker in Tom Rebok's research group. She focuses on data analysis and the application of machine learning to large datasets. She is a graduate of the Master's course in Artificial Intelligence and Data Processing at the Faculty of Informatics, where she is also a Ph.D. student and helps teach Introduction to Machine Learning.​

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