Enjoying reading and socializing with friends hardly sounds surprising when describing a PhD student in software engineering. What is surprising is how determined Fathiyeh Faghih has been in her studies. Her determination to achieve her full potential in CS has extended to a desire to help others reach theirs.
Fathiyeh had an interest in math from early on. She remembers taking a logic course in her selective, challenging high school in Iran. The logic course made an impression on her and helped nurture a desire to solve real-world problems. Later, when beginning her studies at Sharif University in Tehran, Fathiyeh felt at a disadvantage compared with boys from Tehran who, having grown up in the big city, already had more experience using computers. Her brother, seven years older, was also at Sharif. He encouraged her, but she was quiet in classes and let others ask questions. She remembers that she didn't want to speak out and actually felt frightened. Still, she set about doing as well as she could. The computer science program at Sharif had more women than most of the other technical disciplines had, so she didn’t feel alone. Also, the fact that exam results were private meant that she never felt that she was competing with others. She wasn’t in a hurry to check her ranking at the end of terms and believed that she had simply done her best.
Only a few students were selected for admission to graduate school at Sharif without the required entrance examination. Before long, not only did Fathiyeh surprise herself with high marks, but she was also given the award that exempted her from the graduate entrance exam. Her confidence blossomed and she became an even stronger student.
After completing her master's degree, Fathiyeh married a Waterloo graduate student and came to the University of Waterloo for graduate school in software engineering. She specializes in software engineering, where she does research on modeling and analysis for developing reliable software.
As soon as she arrived at Waterloo, WICS provided Fathiyeh with chances to join social events. Fathiyeh emphasizes that special programs, camps for prospective students, and open houses have been helpful for giving women chances to find out more about pursuing a degree in computer science. She attended such events twice as a volunteer and even presented her research. She was webmaster for WICS for a while and also volunteered at the Grace Hopper Conference, where she was a Facebook scholarship finalist. Fathiyeh was twice awarded an Ontario Graduate Scholarship. She's also found that interacting with industry to work on real-world problems has been gratifying.
Finding out what other students are doing has fostered an exchange of ideas and a source of inspiration. Weekly presentations and seminars make this happen. What would Fathiyeh tell prospective students?
Prepare a little bit!
She recommends taking advantage of what's available. Above all, she encourages, get informed.