Meet the Researcher: Andrea Balogh

Andrea is a CONFIRM PhD Student based University College Cork

” If you’re interested in it just do it, don’t let stereotypical judgements stop you. You don’t have to be a genius to study STEM or do a PhD.”

Tell us a bit about your research...

My research interest is optimization and decision-making processes. I’m mostly interested in combinatorial optimization methods that are well suited for scheduling, planning, and configuration problems.
Within this field, I’m interested in a variety of topics such as different techniques to model such problems, possibilities to build them from data, the technology of the solvers that solve these problems as well as explainability of these models.
Recently I’ve been exploring the ways to compactly represent decision-making models especially in the context of configuration problems.

What did you study as an Undergraduate?

I studied Computer Science at Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca in Romania. Here I got a basic introduction to many subfields of computer science after which I did an Erasmus Masters. Through these years in Maynooth Univesity and the University of St Andrews, I got more and more exposed to the world of research which I came to like.

What made you decide to go into research?

Curiosity. I’ve always wanted to understand and know the reasons why certain things happen in our world. Initially, when I choose to study computer science I thought I would become a software developer. I did an internship through which I realized this is not exactly what I want to do. So I went on to do a Masters degree during which I started to see that one could do research as well. This and the few years working at a research centre led me to start my PhD.

What do you enjoy most about being a PhD Student or Post-Doc?

The freedom to test my ideas and understanding of a problem.
I enjoy experimenting and when failing the struggle to come up with a new hypothesis to match what I learned from my experiments.
I also enjoy reading about several different topics and finding connections between them.
There is definitely a love-hate relationship with the struggle to formulate my understanding to be able to communicate it to others and to think them further given new insights.

Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about a career or research in STEM?

If you’re interested in it just do it, don’t let stereotypical judgements stop you. You don’t have to be a genius to study STEM or do a PhD. I often see that computer scientists often have hobbies that are closely related to their studies/work but I think this isn’t a criteria to measure if you’re cut out for the field. I think it is perfectly fine if not necessary to have very different interests as well. This will give you a more open perspective and possibly lower your chances of burning out early in your career.

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