How HLF changed my life: Larissa Suzuki

BLOG: Heidelberg Laureate Forum

Laureates of mathematics and computer science meet the next generation
Heidelberg Laureate Forum

The COVID-19 pandemic forces us all to pause, reflect, and adapt. While the 8th Heidelberg Laureate Forum has been postponed to September 2021, this year’s Virtual HLF will take place from Monday, September 21 until Friday, September 25, 2020. Its motto: Traversing Separation.

An excellent opportunity to review seven successful years of HLF and to follow-up on some alumni and their path since then.

Who are you, where are you from and what is your scientific background?
I am Dr Larissa Suzuki, I am Italian-Brazilian and grew up in the State of Sao Paulo (Brazil). I have a BSc in Computer Science, an MPhil in Electrical Engineering, and a PhD in Computer Science.

Photo courtesy of Larissa Suzuki

In which year did you attend the HLF and what were you doing back then?
I attended the HLF in 2017, and I was working for the London Government, and at University College London as an Honorary Research Associate pursuing research on smart cities.

What inspired you most during the HLF?
My participation in the Forum allowed me to engage with a leading community body of scientists in Computer Science and Mathematics and observe how they conduct research, develop leaders, and disseminate their ideas. Learning more about the advancements in the state of the art in Computer Science and participating in workshops substantially contributed to my research career as I learned more and gained more confidence and faith in my results.
I co-organized the Machine Learning workshop and met young researchers pursuing astonishing work in my field of research. Being among top professionals and researchers in my field of study ensured that I had fruitful discussions about my academic research and professional career.  

What is your best memory you have from your stay in Heidelberg?
As a researcher, I desire to participate in intellectually demanding scientific events to continue building up my career as I love the academic environment, teaching, and researching. The scientific discussions and lectures were outstanding, but I also have to highlight that one of the fondest memories I have from the Forum was the closing dinner when I ended up on stage alongside an amazing fellow researcher and two Laureates.

Larissa Suzuki on her HLF experience.

What has happened in your life since then and in which position are you currently working?
In 2018 I went back to the technology industry. I worked at Oracle Corporation as a Director of AI Product Management, and I now work at Google as a Machine Learning Practice Lead. My continuing academic work is at UCL where I serve as an Honorary Associate Professor in Computer Science.

Which advice would you give the next generation of Young Researchers?
Take this opportunity as a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the most outstanding community of computer scientists and mathematicians. You will have access to highly important leaders and a research network, which you should explore to obtain long-lasting connections with for future research and professional endeavors. The Laureates are amazing, so take any opportunity that comes your way to talk to them about your research and to ask them questions. I received invaluable advice on my research and academic and professional career.

How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your professional and private life?
I joined Google during the pandemic, and the biggest challenge is not having met any teammates in person. However, we must learn how to adapt and navigate ambiguity and make the most out of the situation. An important thing is to keep time management on track so that you can have breaks, time with family, and time to work. Because the way we work has totally changed, I understand now more than ever the importance of really connecting with people. Working from home has provided some new insights on wellbeing, work-life balance, and allowed me to spend more time with my support dog. With all the tools for remote working that are available to us and with the experience we are now collecting, I think we can start working from home more often and make some sustainable changes to the way we organize our professional and personal lives.

What is the most valuable lesson the pandemic taught you so far?
The pandemic has made me think more about the importance of trying to use data to the highest extent to pursue objective truth. Given all of the information and even misinformation, out there, it’s especially important now to separate signal from noise. In turn, the opportunities for having all of this information create unprecedented opportunities for data and technology to solve social problems. 

How did social media change the way you communicate your research?
I have started blogging more about my research, and due to the increased use of social media to share my research, I have been approaching my writing in a way that is readable and interesting for multiple audiences. 

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Jens-Steffen Scherer is a neuroscientist, science communicator, and moderator. Besides pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Oldenburg, he works for the National Institute for Science Communication (NaWik) and the Südwestrundfunk (SWR). In 2018 Jens-Steffen won the 8th Science Slam of Oldenburg. LinkedIn

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