This is the first newsletter by the UniMelb IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) student affinity group. In this edition, we are sharing a note by our chair, a call for nominations for our upcoming elections for 2021 committee, a light-hearted article on Melbourne’s lockdown, and a fun tidbit.

Note by IEEE WIE Chair, Ifrah Saeed
I am a second year PhD student at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and got the opportunity to chair UniMelb IEEE WIE when it had been inactive for a couple of years. My team and I have been running this society for over a year now and arranged many successful events ranging from social interactions (pre-covid) and professional and technical skills development seminars and workshops. We also launched our own website, created a logo, and established our social media pages. This would not have been possible without our passionate committee members and volunteers. I would like to thank Noore Karishma for setting up our website, Abeer Alshehri for designing amazing flyers for our events, Carmen Bas for designing our logo, Tabinda Sarwar and Attie Kesiilwe for helping us with our initial events, and Elaheh Alipourchavary for maintaining our website. Our committee members and volunteers are a big part of our society and you can be one of them by signing up here: IEEE membership is preferable but not mandatory for volunteer roles. Personally, in this journey of chairing WIE UniMelb, I not only made new friends and connections but learnt a lot about leadership and planning and organising events.

We are adding a few highlights of our events in this newsletter and for details, feel free to visit our website

2021 UniMelb IEEE WIE Committee
We are also arranging elections in December, 2020 for the UniMelb IEEE WIE 2021 committee. If you are interested, please nominate yourself here before 30th November. Stay tuned to further details on our website and Facebook page

Article by Prof. Margreta
Professor Margreta Kuijper from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering has been the UniMelb IEEE WIE mentor since we started last year. She has written a light-hearted article on the covid life and its effects especially on women researchers.

Margreta Kuijper is a Professor in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. After ten years of working at an aerospace laboratory and several research institutes, including postdoctoral work at IMA, Minneapolis and the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, she came to the University of Melbourne in 1995. Here she was appointed first as a Research Fellow, then a Lecturer in 1999, a Senior Lecturer in 2001, an Associate Professor in 2006 and a Professor in 2017. She has an interest in digital communications and its connections with other areas in Engineering, particularly systems theory and control theory.

Willpower, pure willpower
Do you know what you need? Welcome to lockdown, the ideal opportunity to find out what YOU need.

I am writing this piece just as Melbourne is tentatively opening up again, out of lockdown. Many of us did not have it easy during lockdown. Our worlds were shrinking, our habits and rituals dropped dead from one day to another. We had to learn a lot of new technology from one day to another.

For me personally, lockdown brought up a question: do I know what I need? Clearly I had taken one or two things for granted: that my daily commute did more than transporting me from A to B; that small talk in the workplace wasn’t that small; that walks between buildings, up and down stairs were key physical exercises. But most importantly, that I had some control over time and space to do research.

Sure, in pre-covid times there were plenty of disruptions, knocks on the office door, noisy office neighbours (ah how I miss you!), all hindering the peace and quiet that I needed to do research, to have an uninterrupted chain of thoughts. It didn’t matter though because there was always a backup solution: work at home. Wonderful Work at Home, all by myself, like a freeway to results, everything smoothly developing ten times faster than in the office. I never did that more than two days in a row though because surely to work from home for longer would drive me nuts. Ha. So here we are, working from home for months and months. In my case there are three other personalities in the house competing for that space and we are all not being very quiet. Gone is my freeway, it has turned into a cobbly laneway where it is easy to stumble and it takes ages to get anywhere.

And then to think that I’ve got it easy as my children are young adults. Some of you have small children at home, so much harder. Some of you live alone and are brutally confronted with their needs. Which will be different for each person. If there is any upside to lockdown, it is that it teaches you what you need, what you miss the most. Which is a lesson for the future. In my case it was a one-hour bikeride. Didn’t need to be done every day, but if I missed it two days in a row then I would get a splitting headache. Until I decided that I was simply too busy to have a headache. Get on my bike, no matter what. Pure willpower.

If I think about whether there is anything specifically affecting women researchers the phenomenon of online conference comes to mind. Surely this is a good thing for women researchers. In pre-covid times one had to make a choice about which international conference to attend. There were constraints, such as budget, time away and perhaps it wasn’t possible at all because of family commitments. Now it is possible, and not just one conference. There are so many that require just a small registration fee (sometimes none at all). We can now select the video recordings that we are interested in, watch and, blissfully rewind, what a great feature. And the recordings are still available long after the conference finishes! I was raving about this to a colleague the other day, how I enjoyed watching a conference tutorial session and being able to rewind and reflect. She responded matter-of-factly and asked me how many other presentations I had watched at that conference. She told me she hadn’t watched any, putting it off, too busy. I had to admit that I hadn’t watched any other presentations either. And I only watched that one until halfway. I have great plans though!

Apparently one needs to fly to the other end of the world, just like all the other conference participants and then be condemned to each other to get anything out of a conference. Interesting isn’t it.

Fun tidbit
Sharing a reminder from Silicon Valley posted by Eric Vyacheslav on his LinkedIn profile. (We all know still_alive will be False, if we don’t follow these precautions) so stay safe and sane!

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