Vassileva named to $1.6m chair
U of S Computer Science Prof. Julita Vassileva has been named to the $1.6-million Cameco NSERC Prairie Chair for Women in Science and Engineering, U of S President Peter MacKinnon announced Sept. 19.
Vassileva will work to identify barriers that deter females from pursuing careers in science and engineering and support and mentor young women in the sciences.
“This Chair, made possible by the critical support of our funding partners, will allow Prof. Vassileva to continue to lead by her own example of career success, and launch new initiatives to help young women follow her lead,” MacKinnon said.
Participation of women in mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences in Canadian universities is lower than that of men and is also lower than corresponding levels in Europe. In some disciplines, notably computer science and electrical and computer engineering, women’s involvement has declined even further in recent years.
The Chair is one of only five awarded across the country. The five-year, $1.16-million appointment is supported with $350,000 from Saskatoon-based Cameco Corporation as part of its gift to the current Thinking the World of Our Future fundraising campaign at the U of S. This is matched with $350,000 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), with the balance made up by the University.
“At Cameco, we see firsthand the increasing need for engineers and science specialists,” said company president and CEO Jerry Grandey. This Chair “will provide a unique opportunity to move forward and encourage women in Saskatchewan to consider careers in science and engineering.”
Vassileva is a successful computer scientist who supports women through lectures on the need for more female participation, particularly in computer science and engineering. She also supervises and mentors many young women students.
She has developed ways of building rewards into the software supporting online communities and she will determine what female-specific incentives and rewards can be integrated into an online community to make it fun and exciting, while piquing girls’ interest in science and engineering.
Working with colleagues in sociology, Native studies, and women’s and gender studies, Vassileva will investigate the attitudes of high school girls, their parents and their teachers in Saskatoon, rural Saskatchewan and Manitoba. She will also prepare recommendations for university curriculum design in computer science.