The logical path (to Computer Science)

Alice Tarzariol was born in Veneto, attended the university in Udine for her Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes and then joined the University of Klagenfurt to pursue her doctoral studies. Her work on logic is attracting international attention, as illustrated by her recent success at the International Conference on Logic Programming, where she won the Best Student Paper Award. We spoke to her about her path to Computer Science.

The manifold job prospects were the decisive factor for Alice Tarzariol, who researches and teaches as a doctoral student and university assistant at the Department of Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity at the University of Klagenfurt, leading her to opt for a degree in Computer Science. For this, Alice Tarzariol went to the Università degli Studi di Udine. After completing her Bachelor’s degree, she was fascinated by the potential of artificial intelligence, bringing her to continue with a Master’s degree programme – and chose the double-degree programme jointly run with the University of Klagenfurt. “Originally, I decided to study Computer Science since it was a safe future option for me, compared for example to Mathematics. I wasn’t sure whether that would have been my path, but I knew that I would have found a good job with it even after graduating with a BA. However, the more I learned about it, the more the topic fascinated me, leading me to continue my studies”, she tells us.

Alice Tarzariol is currently completing her doctorate at the University of Klagenfurt. Her research topic is situated in the field of knowledge representation and reasoning. “Logic programming has a huge potential for expressing in an elegant and simple way configuration problems, which industries address every day in their production phases”, she explains. “However, writing an efficient logic program is not an easy thing. For this reason, in my research I apply machine learning techniques to improve the efficiency of existing programs exploiting hidden properties that are difficult to catch”. With the groundwork for her thesis firmly in place, Alice Tarzariol plans to use the remaining year to refine her work even further. Some of her papers have already been published at top conferences and in high-ranking journals – such as the International Joint Conference of Artificial Intelligence and the Machine Learning Journal. Most recently, she received the Best Student Paper Award at the International Conference on Logic Programming in Haifa/Israel.

Prior to embarking on her studies, Alice Tarzariol could not have imagined what the subject of Computer Science would have in store for her. “At my high school, the emphasis was mainly on the field of Economics. It was thanks to my Computer Science and Math teachers that I started to be interested in the topic; then, at the University, I got hooked on the subject and realized that Computer Science is more than programming, programming, programming”, says Alice Tarzariol, who was always very keen on the subject of Mathematics. In the meantime, she has landed where her talent can be put to best use – in the logic area of Computer Science. We ask her whether she ever found it a hindrance or indeed a benefit to be a woman studying in a field that – to this day – is dominated by men, and we are told: “I have heard of this being an issue, but in all honesty I can say: It did not and still does not have any significance for me. I have never encountered any difference and I feel fully integrated.”

Alice Tarzariol would ideally like to continue her academic career, even though this is the more difficult path and many details are unpredictable, especially due to short-term contracts. “My heart tells me that I would like to continue this adventure. Partly, because I love to teach”, she emphasises. Industry, on the other hand, offers better security and plenty of opportunities for professional development. “So far, I have always been offered interesting positions. I trust that the right thing will come along again at the right time”, Alice Tarzariol remains confident.

A few words with … Alice Tarzariol

What motivates you to work in science?
It is fascinating to identify, formulate and try to solve new challenges every time, extending our current knowledge by discovering something entirely novel.

Do your parents understand what it is you are working on?
Not really, but they always provide me fully support during my research and that’s the important thing to me.

What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
It depends on what there is on my to-do list. In general, I start with the task I feel least inclined to do. This approach has helped me to progress on my research, especially during tough time.

Do you have proper holidays? Without thinking about your work?
Yes, it is necessary for me to keep a fresh mind and try to solve problems using a different perspective.

What makes you furious?
Dealing with unreasonable people, who are unwilling to understand others.

And what calms you down?
Having a walk in a quite area or spending time with my boyfriend.

What are you afraid of?
The uncertainty of the future.

What are you looking forward to?
Tackling the next challenge.