IRISS and ACM-W events in Computer Science encouraged and inspired young talent and women to move ahead in this field

Gandhinagar: The 14th Inter-Research-Institute Student Seminar in Computer Science (IRISS 2020) concluded today at the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN). The two-day event was inaugurated yesterday in presence of Prof Sudhir Jain, Director, IITGN; Prof Amit Prashant, Dean of Research and Development, IIT Gandhinagar; Prof Jayant Haritsa from IISc Bangalore and Steering Committee Chair, IRISS; Prof Neeldhara Misra from IIT Gandhinagar and Program Committee Chair, IRISS; and Prof Anirban Dasgupta, Discipline Coordinator, IIT Gandhinagar.

Speaking on the occasion and introducing visiting participants to the core values of IITGN, Prof Sudhir K Jain said, “If we see the growth of human civilisation, every new generation has done something better than their previous generation. Likewise, when I joined IIT Gandhinagar in 2009, I firmly believed that we as the second generation IITs, must do something that is superior to the first generation IITs and bring pride to the first generation IITs. We set for ourselves three key ideas on which we will build the 21st century Nalanda or Takshashila for India that Indians will be proud of. The first idea is, ‘Students First’ in everything we do as well as empower them and cultivate leadership qualities in our students. This year, we have also started ‘Future Faculty Program’ under which, we will prepare our PhD students in both, mindset and skills, to become top-notch faculty members. The second idea that we have is, we will want to focus on ‘Research for Impact’ as against research for credentials. How the world can become a better place with our work. We would like to take up societal issues, we would like to work in an interdisciplinary environment. And the third idea that we define ourselves for is the ‘Societal Concerns’. We feel it is extremely important to build a mindset in our students and in ourselves that we are accountable to the system, to the poorest of this country. We have created numerous programs and initiatives to provide empowerment to the construction workers, their children, mess workers, and other such support staff and their family members.” Prof Jain also described the thought process that went behind designing and building an iconic and inclusive campus of IITGN.

Earlier, Prof Amit Prashant, Dean of Research and Development, IIT Gandhinagar, encouraged the participants to make an impact in their area of interest and gain maximum knowledge out of the seminar. Prof Jayant Haritsa, Professor of Computer Science & Automation from IISc Bangalore and Steering Committee Chair, IRISS, gave the participant a brief background about IRISS and the program format. Prof Neeldhara Misra from Computer Science discipline of IIT Gandhinagar, Program Committee Chair, IRISS, and one of the organisers of the event provided a brief outline of various talks and presentations lined up in the 14th edition of IRISS. In the end, Prof Anirban Dasgupta, Computer Science Discipline Coordinator, IIT Gandhinagar, provided some information on various activities and opportunities offered in the Computer Science discipline at IITGN.

The two days of IRISS 2020 witnessed many enlightening talks, poster presentations and two panel discussions by faculty members and participants from all over the country, including an early career keynote on the first day by Prof Bhavna Kanukurthi, IISc Bangalore, on the topic “Privacy Amplification (via Non-malleable Codes)”, and the IRISS keynote talk by Prof S Sudarshan, IIT Bombay, on the topic “XData: Testing and Grading SQL Queries”. More than 150 faculty members, researchers and students participated in IRISS 2020 at IITGN.

This event was also co-located with an Association for Computing Machinery-Women India (ACM-W India)’s workshop on ‘Women in Computer Science and Research’ on February 14, 2020, to support, celebrate and encourage women in the computing field internationally. Starting the event Dr Heena Timani, Chair of ACM- W India and Co-Founder and Director of Iananya Datalytix Pvt Ltd, gave an introduction to ACM-W India’s mission and activities.

Dr Cherri M Pancake, President ACM, Professor Emeritus at Oregon State University and Director of Northwest Alliance for Computational Science and Engineering (NASCE), gave an inspiring keynote talk on ‘ACM Can Help Us Change Our Male-Dominated Field’. Addressing in a hall full of participants Dr Cherri Pancake said, “Women themselves need to act, learn to be more proactive in changing our male-dominated field. Women are still ‘outsiders’ in this field. There are still too few women in the profession of computer science for various reasons. Ultimately it is up to each of us to create change in our culture. Each woman has the capabilities for strong leadership and each one of us can be a ‘change agent’. Let’s work together to influence the field of computing.” She also elaborated on how ACM-W can help women in computing learn about change.

The day-long workshop had three invited talks – first by Prof Joycee M Mekie, Assistant Professor, IIT Gandhinagar; second talk on “Data Analytics” by Dr Lipika Dey, Principal Scientist, TCS Innovation Lab; third talk on “Building Technologies for Low Resource Language” by Dr Kalika Bali, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research Lab, India. The event also had a panel discussion on “Women in Computing: Opportunities in Higher Education and Research” that was moderated by Dr Viraj Kumar, Visiting Professor, Indian Institute of Science Bangalore. The panel members included Dr Meenakshi D’Souza, Associate Professor, IIIT Bangalore; Dr Arati M. Dixit, Senior Scientist at ARA, Research Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, NC State University, Raleigh, USA; Dr Nutan Limaye, Associate Professor, IIT Bombay; Dr Chitra Babu, Professor and HOD, SSN College of Engineering, Chennai.