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ISSNAF Stories: Interview with Prof. Elisa Bertino

September 15, 2022

Prof. Elisa Bertino is the Samuel D. Conte Professor of Computer Science at Purdue University and research director at CERIAS. Her research interests cover many areas in the fields of information security and database systems. It combines both theoretical and practical aspects, addressing applications on a number of domains, such as medicine and humanities.

Prof. Bertino is a member of the ISSNAF Scientific Council.

What can you tell us about your background?

I was born in Rome and studied Computer Science at the University of Pisa. I moved to NA (North America) in 2004. I was offered a Professor and Research Director of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS) at Purdue University. As my research field is cyber security and CERIAS is one of the major academic center for Cyber Security, I accepted the offer in order to expand my research program and have better opportunity for carrying our impactful research. Prior to that, in 1982-1983 I was postdoc at the IBM research lab in San Jose (now Almaden) in California and in 1988-1989 I was visiting scientist at MCC in Austin (Texas).

What are the highlights of your experience in NA? Research synergies between academia, industry, and government, many interesting research programs and funding opportunities and excellent staff support.

You are currently Professor of Computer Science. What aspects of your job are you most passionate about? I am passionate about exploring new ideas and feel proud to be in a field – Computer Science, which has revolutionized our world and will continue to do so.

What would you tell a young Italian working in your field? Italian scientists are very successful and appreciated. So be confident in your abilities and build a ground-breaking impactful research program. Today technologies like AI, next-gen cellular networks, hardware advancements, and quantum computing will make possible disruptive applications. So “dream big”.

Let's now talk about the future. What are you most excited about regarding future directions in your field? The convergence of many innovative technologies will result in applications and systems that can address challenges humanity is facing, such as health, food and water security.

What are you most worried instead about regarding future directions in your field? Some technologies like AI may have negative impacts, for example may result in biased decisions. So, we need to ensure that these technologies are developed with ethical principles.

How and why did you become involved with ISSNAF? In 2014 I was invited to give a talk to the ISSNAF annual symposium. It was an exciting event, also because during that symposium Andrew Viterbi received the ISSNAF Lifetime Achievement Award.

How has ISSNAF played a role in promoting your personal or professional growth? ISSNAF has made me aware of the excellent research carried out by Italian scientists in NA in many different fields and this has broadened my view on current important advancements in fields different from mine.

Which ISSNAF event do you most look forward to attending? The Young Investigator Awards ceremony is an event that I look forward to as I enjoy seeing the amazing research by the young Italian Scientists in NA. This makes me very proud to be Italian.

The Italian Diaspora: Is it only a brain drain or do we contribute to Italian society? If so, how? I personally see normal for people to move across different countries and continents, and especially for scientists. We certainly contribute to the Italian society by joint research between Italy and NA and offering opportunities to Italian students for research visits at NA institutions, but also showing to NA companies the excellent talent pool we have in Italy. Hopefully, this may represent an incentive for these companies to establish centers in Italy and/or fund research at Italian institutions.

If you had one piece of advice to give a researcher coming to NA, what would it be? In NA there is a bit of a competitiveness culture. Do not be intimidated by this and be confident.

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