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“It is a joy to see more women in technological professions”. On career choices, gender parity and innovation: An interview with Dr. Ayelet Butman, Head of the Computer Science Department.



“Women nowadays aren’t limited in their professional choices. They can pursue a career in any field they choose, and it’s really exciting to see more and more women turning the technological professions which provide greater economic security, mobility and status” says Dr. Ayelet Butman, newly appointed Head of HIT’s Computer Science Department. With undergraduate and advanced degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science, AI and Stringology from Bar-Ilan University, Dr. Butman is uniquely qualified to speak on the issue of career choices, gender parity and innovation.


“To my view, computer scientists are to the Exact Sciences what psychologists are to the Social Sciences. Both fields address and resolve other people’s problems. Our service to humanity is in the ability to find solutions to complex problems like weather forecasting, processing visual and vocal data, understanding the interface between humans and data distribution, building research models, generating virtual and augmented realities and more.


“This year, we opened a Master’s degree program, with and without a thesis. This allows advanced students to be actively involved in hands-on research, which can help lead to the next industrial breakthroughs. As Department Head, I plan to expand our collaborations with high-tech industries in Israel and around the world. It’s gratifying to see our graduates embark on career paths as researchers and developers in state-of-the-art companies. The Department is recruiting young faculty members in the areas of Deep Learning in its various applications, which will allow us to create a strong research group in this area of expertise and expand our ranks in the field of Artificial Intelligence. We are also planning to organize an international conference at HIT, which will further enhance our status in the academic world.”


According to Dr. Butman, while women now appear prominently throughout the Israeli academe, gender is not relevant when it comes to heading the Department of Computer Science. “There are areas where a unique female perspective provides an advantage in innovative problem-solving. In my field of expertise, however, which is like theoretical and logical puzzle-solving, gender provides no real benefits either way. Dr. Butman’s main research interest is Stringology, which draws from various fields such as Textual Information Processing, Computational Biology and Data Structures.


Dr. Butman assumed her new position as Department Head in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis which forced higher education institutions to transition overnight to distance learning. "This is an excellent example of how the pandemic brought about a dramatic shift in pedagogical approaches, taking an issue which was at best regarded as ‘important’ but not ‘urgent’ to one that required immediate resolution. The general feeling was that despite its necessity, it would take a very long time to come about. Once the need arose, however, academia moved very quickly to distance learning. As a result, we discovered a wide range of innovative technological and pedagogical tools that were not previously employed. I strive to implement these methods for our students and not revert to traditional teaching methods, even if circumstances change for the better. My recommendation for the post-pandemic days is that students be offered a wide range of study options so that they can choose the way they can study optimally.”


As a result of Covid 19, the need to shift to online learning is now a foregone conclusion. recognized by all. Just as it took a major external factor to change attitudes and appreciate the immediacy of the need to change, so too did the notion that mathematics is a key to future success meet with resistance. It is common knowledge that most students do not see the direct connection between the study of mathematics and their future professional aspirations. While they recognize that math is an important subject to study, they do not really understand how it will help them in the real world. The Innovative Teaching Education in Mathematics (ITEM) aims to bridge this gap between mathematics and practicality. One of the goals of this EU Erasmus project is to demonstrate to students how much each subject they study in math relates to practical problems in their chosen specialty. We present the real-life problem before we present the mathematical aspects, and then link the two. The reactions of the students are very positive and their motivation to learn math and their understanding of its benefits has significantly increased.



Posted: 11/03/2021