Above and Beyond Scholarship – Nova Ahmed, PhD

Professor Nova Ahmed is a computer scientist living in Bangladesh, teaching at North South University.

Year of Scholarship and Conference Attendance: ACM/IFP/Usenix Middleware 2008

Country of residence at the time of receiving the ACM-W Scholarship: USA

Dr Nova Ahmed is a computer scientist living in Bangladesh. She has finished her PhD at Georgia Institute of Technology, USA and came back to Bangladesh to make changes. She used her experiences working with sensors to fight social challenges, such as systems protecting women from sexual harassment. She continues to use her work that could support marginal communities with low-cost, locally available solutions. She has worked with Google to explore the inclusion of women and marginal communities in technology. She is currently working on a funded project to enhance the inclusion of women in digital finance by enabling better technology designs funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Her work ensures social justice and feminist human-computer interaction.

Nova is a Professor at North South University. A founder and EC of National Young Academy Bangladesh, former EC of Global Young Academy, EC of Biomedical Research Foundation Fellow of Sangat, the feminist network in South Asia, and founding board member of Kaan Pete Roi: a suicide prevention call centre. She is an active volunteer in Bangladesh Mathematical Olympiad, Children’s Science Congress and Missing Daughter’s Initiative. She has organized the Ada Lovelace Celebration to include more women in technology in Bangladesh for 2020 and 2021. In her free time, she is busy with her two daughters and a fun partner! 

What has been a highlight of attending the conference (utilizing the ACM-W Scholarship)?

The scholarship experience enabled me to attend a conference when I was feeling that I was falling behind having a newborn baby; it gave me the strength I needed to find my confidence. It was amazing. I received it at a time when that assurance was needed. I recommended many others to apply for it, and several of my young colleagues and students from Bangladesh received it.

How did attending the ACM-W-sponsored conference impact your career?

I received an ACM-W scholarship to join a conference in 2008, right after I had a baby girl. I was feeling very down at that time as it was the middle of my PhD, and I was feeling sluggish and slow. The scholarship was a window for me to look away and look at what I was doing from afar. It was an amazing experience for me. I also realized how much I missed my baby girl being away from her! I wish everyone else could get this support when they need a boost. I have recommended many I mentored to apply for the ACM-W scholarship once I received it (and many have achieved it).

What has been your career highlight? What are you most proud of?

I returned to Bangladesh after finishing my PhD at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the USA. I was able to apply many things I learned to solve local problems taking into account the local context here. I am proud that I am working in a developing country, teaching young ones here who would be able to dream big and contribute where it is most needed.

What aspects of your career have you found challenging?

In a developing country, resource constraint is a challenge where staying connected and joining international conferences and workshops become challenging. I wish there were more opportunities for mid-career and senior women who are in economically backward regions. The funding structure and country-wide priorities are very different here compared to developed ones.

What would you recommend to young people thinking of a career in computing?

It’s a lot of fun; please consider it! You can code anything you can dream of and beyond!

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