Women in Science: Technology Research and Development

Special Presentation by Alexandra Sugurel at the Fulbright Educational Advising Center (FEAC)

"Is there no limit to what women in the science field can do?" is the question the public was left pondering after Alexandra Sugurel’s talk at the EducationUSA/Fulbright Educational Advising Center in Bucharest on July 16th. Alexandra Sugurel is a former EducationUSA/FEAC advisee who won a scholarship to attend George Washington University several years ago. Ever since her graduation, Alexandra has kept coming back to FEAC to share her experience and wise advice.

Alexandra, as those present came to discover, initially wanted to major in Fine Arts but eventually majored in Engineering and Spanish as well. As a student at the George Washington University in Washington, DC, she worked as a teaching assistant in the Computer Science Department. This opportunity ultimately led to her being introduced to the wonderful mix between technology and special needs education, and later opening the path for research at MIT. Having always had an exquisite connection with children, she felt emotionally invested in this topic. Therefore, when the opportunity to program a robot for this purpose presented itself, Alexandra collaborated with a team of experts in fields such as psychology, engineering, and special education to customize the NAO robot as a powerful educational tool. NAO is a humanoid robot which, among different social applications, also aids children with autism, helping them conquer everyday obstacles.

Through a slideshow of pictures and essential data, Alexandra managed to capture the attention of the attendees and inform them about the ways in which technology (such as touch screen applications or robots) can be used efficiently to help those in need. Although reaching this stage was not an easy process, her hard work has paid off in the form of an exciting job which makes her happy. Her advice to anyone interested in studying engineering or just generally studying abroad is to stay positive, even during the most difficult times. One of the most significant moments of the presentation was when Alexandra acknowledged her deep gratitude to her grandparents, who played a major role in her evolution as a person and as a professional researcher.  She also aknowledged her mentors in research and her brilliant colleagues at work.

Near the end of the event, questions and different comments started flowing in from the audience. Alexandra graciously responded to each and every one of them, whether they were about campus conditions, studies and courses available, struggles, her motivation or satisfaction while working on her research. With the same characteristic enthusiasm, she shared her story of visiting Peru for research on the social status of women or teaching English in China for a semester.

All in all, the event was a success – the public was left feeling inspired, connected by an invisible thread reassuring us that, as Alexandra said, all it takes to succeed is a little passion and courage. Because doing what one loves for a living results in decisive happiness, confidence and a great life, filled with beautiful memories and stories – such as the ones Alexandra was kind enough to present at the EducationUSA/Fulbright Educational Advising Center. Fortunately, she will hold future presentations as well – so the opportunity to listen to her story is still available. (article by FEAC intern, Ozana Ionică, and by FEAC staff)

My fulbright experience

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Students at the advising center

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Romanian-U.S. Fulbright Commission

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