Mireia Calvo, Premi Dona TIC Revelació and course instructor for the Master's Degree in Data Science
"Technical degrees are the future"
Mireia Calvo: "The best part of being a UOC professor is that I can transmit not only my knowledge but also my motivation for science and technology to the new generations"
By Marian Antón
What does it mean to receive the Premi Dona TIC?
Bearing in mind my short professional career, this award is clear encouragement to continue growing as an engineer and researcher. In my case, it motivates me to go on seeking high-impact solutions for society in the field of biomedical engineering, providing responses to medical problems that, given their complexity, medicine alone cannot resolve and therefore needs the tools that engineering offers.
Why do you deserve this recognition?
One of my strong points is my motivation to learn and improve. Therefore, in order to apply the knowledge acquired in telecommunications engineering to medicine, while I was doing a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering, I started working in the sector. First, I was a researcher in the eHealth R&D department at BDigital (now Eurecat), where I worked on a nationally-funded project. Later on I was a biomedical engineer in the heart arrhythmia unit of Hospital Clínic in Barcelona, where I participated in several projects, some international. This gave me a background and experience that enabled me to obtain a total of five grants, including a postgraduate grant from the “la Caixa” Foundation, thanks to which I did my doctoral studies in France.
What was the subject of your thesis?
The objective of my thesis was to better understand a disease that causes sudden cardiac death in people with apparently normal hearts, known as Brugada syndrome. The thesis proposes an innovative tool that combines methods in signal processing, modelling and machine learning that can automatically identify patients with the syndrome at high risk of sudden death. Including this tool in clinical practice would improve the selection of patients who need the preventive implantation of defibrillators and would therefore have a huge social and economic impact.
Why is it still not easy to find young women in technical degrees like yours?
A very important factor is the lack of models. The fact that there are few women in technical sectors means that few young women consider this option when choosing higher education courses.
Has this been changing in recent years?
Yes, as more women study for these degrees, we encourage young women to see the possibility of working in the ICT sector in the future.
What measures should be adopted to foster a technological vocation among young women and break this pattern?
Continuing with the idea of the lack of models, I think that, to fight against the stereotypes that associate technology with the male gender, initiatives are needed, such as the Premis Dona TIC or Pompeu Fabra University’s “Wisibilizalas”, to make women who successfully work in the science and technology sectors visible.
Are quotas a good idea?
No. Personally, I don’t think it is about “forcing” equality between men and women by allowing more girls to study for technical degrees. This will not make us more competitive. Today, I think the only difference between men and women is their motivation to work in technical sectors, as they receive the same education at school and, therefore, are equally prepared to study for these kinds of qualifications. I don’t think it is about offering special facilities to women – they don’t need them. What we need is to find a way of motivating and encouraging them to also develop their abilities in these sectors.
As a UOC course instructor, what would you say to students who are thinking about starting technical training?
That technical degrees are the future. The world is increasingly more digital and studying for a technical qualification will give them the basic tools necessary to resolve any problem they are faced with, whatever their sector of interest.
What do you like most about your work here?
The best part of being a UOC professor is that I can transmit not only my knowledge but also my motivation for science and technology to the new generations. I love passing on knowledge and new tools to my students, but what I find most enriching about teaching is being able to motivate them to continue training beyond our time together on the course. I strongly believe in the impact professors can have on society through their students.