Meet the Keynote Speakers at womENcourage 2015
As a continuation of the series on keynote speakers of womENcourage 2015, this month we travel to Grenoble, France to meet with Marie-Paule Cani!
As a Professor of Computer Science at Grenoble University (Grenoble Institute of Technology & Inria) Marie-Paule is an inspiration to her students and her peers.
Her research interests cover both Shape Modelling and Computer Animation. She contributed over the years to a number of high level models for shapes and motion
such as implicit surfaces, multi-resolution physically-based animation and hybrid representations for real-time natural scenes.
Following a long lasting interest for virtual sculpture, she has been recently searching for more efficient ways to create 3D content such as
combining sketch-based interfaces with procedural models expressing a priori knowledge. She received the Eurographics outstanding technical contributions award
in 2011 and a silver medal from CNRS in 2012 for this work. Marie-Paule Cani served in the program committees of all major conferences in
computer Graphics and was program chair a number of times. She served in the steering committees of SCA, SBIM and SMI, and
in the editorial board of Graphical Models, IEEE TVCG and CGF. She was an EC member of ACM SIGGRAPH from 2007 to 2011, and she represented Computer Graphics
in the ACM Publication Board from 2011 to 2014. In France, she belongs to the executive board of the GDR IG (Informatique Graphique) and to the CA of the
French chapter of Eurographics. She has been Vice President of Eurographics since January 2013.
As the chair of the Outreach Committee of ACM-WE, Bev Bachmayer, had the opportunity to catch up with Marie-Paule for a short discussion last month.
1. Why is the conference important to you?
I have been trying to encourage young women to do Computer Science - and especially Computer Graphics which is my area of research - for many years now.
And I really believe that networking and meeting with women more advanced in their career can play a major role in the motivation of young female students.
So the womENcourage Celebration of Women in Computing is exactly among the kind of actions I'm finding the most useful.
More specifically, we were 50% of girls during my graduate studies in Computer Science in France at the end of the eighties.
But I realized when I became an assistant professor and then full professor that fewer and fewer of my students were girls (
the proportion of girls went down to about 10% of the students).
It is like if "Computers are for boys" was becoming a new stereotype in our digital societies.
Moreover, careers in sciences were not necessarily easy for women. I therefore joined the "Femmes et Science" (Women and sciences)
French association since its creation.
When I was in Sabbatical in New Zealand in 2007, I was invited to give a talk about 'Women in Computer Science' in their gender seminar,
and this gave me the opportunity to read a lot of very interesting studies about the birth of this stereotype.
In parallel, I had tried over the years to keep a good proportion of girls among my PhD students -and they succeeded very well,
so in recognition for these two types of actions, I received the 'Irene Jolliet Curie' award (a French national award) in 2007 in the 'mentoring'
category, for my action for supporting women in computing.
More recently, during the summer 2013, I had the opportunity to attend a Computer Science workshop only for women
Women in Shape, at UCLA. There I was given the opportunity to define a research project and work during one week with a team of young women,
from graduate students to assistant professors, full time on these projects. Four teams of women were working in parallel and staying together
in a "sorority house". This was a wonderful experience! It helped a lot for networking, and also organized round tables about careers,
raising children at the same time, etc. Even if "womENcourage" is a more classical conference with talks, I'm expecting to find there the same
kind of networking opportunity, but at a wider scale.
2. What do you enjoy most about your work?
I really enjoy working with others: in France, we work in teams, I am the head of a team of about 35 people, with 6 faculty - 2 or which are women,
PhD students, master students, post-docs visitor and engineers.
I love sharing ideas, both through research and through teaching : this year I was lucky enough to be elected as the yearly "Computing and digital sciences"
chair at College de France, where I have the opportunity to give a lecture about my research that are open to the general public as well
I really like meeting old friends from many different countries at international conferences: I attended my first ACM SIGGRAPH conference in 1987, when
I was a graduate student. Now most of the friends I met at this period and after are professors on different parts of the worlds,
we are always trying to set up collaborations.
And above all, I love my research domain all about creation of shapes and motions in 3D!
3. What would you want the participants to learn from your keynote speech or the conference in general?
My key-note is going to be a scientific talk, but I am lucky enough with my research topic: it is very visual and can be easily explained to people
who are not working in the area of Computer Graphics. The goal of my research is to turn digital media into a tool enabling anybody
(no matter if they are scientists, engineers, or the general public) to express and progressively refine the 3D shapes and motions they have in mind,
as easily and much more efficiently as if they were using a pen. Contrary to what you may think, this is not a matter of interface:
the key of the approach is to develop a new generation of "user-centered graphical models", that can be created using simple gestures and actions
(sketching, sculpting, stretching, and copy-pasting) and react the way a human user expects under these gestures, thanks to embedded knowledge.
I'm going to illustrate this approach through various examples, from creating virtual garments from a sketch, animating them in real time and transferring them
to characters with a different morphology - thanks to embedded knowledge on developable surfaces; sketching and sculpting arbitrary solid shapes to be printed;
modelling in minute’s plausible biological objects such as trees, needed to populate virtual worlds.
To learn from the conference: I expect that young female students will learn that careers in Computer Sciences are definitely for them,
that we need diversity in this domain as in all others domains, and that they can count on a network of women who are more advanced in their career to help them.