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Women in Computing: Pilar Corredor Moreno

In our third installment, Pilar Corredor-Moreno, a PhD student in the Saunder’s Group studying wheat yellow rust at EI, shares her fascinating and honest opinions on computing.

August 26, 2016

In our third installment, Pilar Corredor-Moreno, a PhD student in the Saunder’s Group studying wheat yellow rust at EI, shares her fascinating and honest opinions on computing.

Read on to discover why you shouldn’t fear computing (and why computers might not take over the world after all.)

What does computing mean to you?

Computers are a tool. For me is like cooking or driving. Almost everyone can drive a car, some people can fix them and only a few people are able to win Formula 1 races with them.

In my case, I need powerful computers to be able to answer biological questions.

Why do you love computing?

Because it is a changing field, so you get to learn and try new things everyday.

Getting into computing for Pilar was almost a necessity for doing her work. Image: JIC.

Wheat yellow rust

What got you into computing?

Actually, I got into computing by chance. As many other people, I never thought I had what you need to work in computing. But that's just not true; we all have the potential if we put our minds to it. I got into computing because we're in the ‘omic’ era and that means we generate tons of data that we need to process and store efficiently.

Who or what is your main inspiration in the computing world?

I don't think you need inspiration but motivation. My motivation is to understand yellow rust and stop losing wheat to feed more people. I was born in the era of technology so I am just using all the resources I have available to understand this disease.

If you could create a computer to have a superpower, what would it be?

Time travelling, to procrastinate without remorse.

What annoys you most about computers?

You need a lot of self-control to avoid procrastination. It's really easy to get distracted with e-mails and Facebook while you're working.

Do you think the computers will take over, and if so, when, and how will we destroy them?

Of course not! Computers are great but they are a human invention. They are and will be a tool for us. They will never have the human capability to reason and be original. That's why we need great people behind the screen doing awesome stuff with computers.

What brought you to EI?

It was actually wheat. Fighting world hunger is one of the major challenges of this century and at EI we have cutting-edge facilities to work on wheat genomics.

Spotlight on global food security

How do we answer the most imminently approaching question of our time: how to feed 9 billion people by 2050? At the heart of this lies an intrinsic discrepancy. A continuously increasing global population must find a way to increase calorie production by 60% in three decades time, while crop yields that once soared above this rise have begun to plateau. We aim to help solve this multi-faceted problem with a far ranging and holistic approach to improving food security.

Part of this challenge can be overcome by studying important food crops such as wheat, which is a major part of our scientific strategy going forwards.

What are you working on currently?

I'm working on wheat yellow rust, trying to understand the host response to the disease using a transcriptomic approach.

Ada Lovelace or Alan Turing?

I would say Ada Lovelace because she was not only an awesome mathematician and the pioneer of modern computing in a society where men dominated science but she also was a poet!

We need to remember that arts and science are not as far apart as we might think; they both try to explain the world we live in.

N64 or playstation?

I have to say I am not really into video games. Working with computers is not a synonym of playing with consoles. We have to debunk the stereotypes around computer scientists.

Windows, Mac, or Linux?

I find Mac quite nice for beginners in bioinformatics.

What’s your favourite coding language and why?

I'm not a computer scientist so I'm not a hard coder. I like Ruby and Python because they are easy to write and to read. I also like R for the cool graphics.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the world of computing?

Never let prejudices put you down. I'm tired of hearing "I don't do computers" like they are some kind of secret evil machine you have to be a genius to understand. Computers are not difficult, just give it a try. You might find yourself loving it.

Finally, what do you think lies ahead in the future of computing?

Who knows? Ten years ago we didn't know what a smartphone was and now we have small computers with constant internet connection in our pockets. So I think the future is in the ‘cloud’ and in new and improved mobile devices.

Article author

Peter Bickerton

Scientific Communications Officer (Part time)

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