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SRP 2017 Faculty Profile: Dr. Alina Lazar, Youngstown State University

Dr. Alina Lazar is a Professor of Computer Science and Information Systems at Youngstown State University. She has also taught at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Both cities are part of the rust belt, an area trying to recover from the decline of the American manufacturing sector. Dr. Lazar participated in the 2016 Sustainable Research Pathways (SRP) workshop, and she has now spent two summers working on collaborative research projects with scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL).

Most recently her team has worked with Dr. John Wu, Group Leader within the Scientific Data Management Group of the Computing Research Division at Berkeley Lab and Alex Sim, Senior Engineer in the Scientific Data Management Group. She describes the collaboration: “Our work is focused on developing foundational techniques to process time series from decision science applications. More specifically, we concentrate on developing resilient algorithms to compare similarity of time series or sequences of mixed data types for purposes of classifying and predicting behaviors of energy consumers. For example, to understand the transportation trends and their impact on consumption, we need to identify relationships between life-cycle patterns/phases and certain type of decisions or choices such as the choice to purchase a home, own a car, or invest in new technologies”. Dr. Lazar’s research was recently featured on the Department of Energy website: Reflecting on her summer experiences at Berkeley Lab, Dr. Lazar said: “For me personally, SRP proved to be an excellent opportunity to expand the number of researchers I collaborate with in a research-intensive setup. This was a change in pace from my regular appointment, which is teaching intensive. I appreciated the chance to work closely with other women researchers that share equal challenges, especially as starting this Fall, I will be the sole female tenured faculty in my department. I am a Computer Scientist, and in my field, there are very few women. I have always worked to find funding, to support teams of women students, and to mentor students to stay in the field. This was my second summer at LBNL. I plan to continue working on these research projects during the academic year and to involve YSU undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing research.”

In pursuit of scientific inquiry and excellence, Dr. Lazar has spent the past two summers away from her family. She explains: “To participate in the SRP program, I had to move across the country and be away from my family for the summer. I couldn’t do this without their support, especially my husband who has taken care of our children in the meanwhile. We have three children, with the youngest one being five years old. We also have very busy academic lives sharing a love for research and scientific inquiry. At times balancing things is not easy as we work at different universities, more than 70 miles apart, but we have managed to be successful in our work. It does help though that we both work in similar positions, so we have a good understanding of the demands that each of us faces to fulfill our jobs and do what we love. There is no universal solution on how to balance someone’s personal and professional life. However, with perseverance and dedication everything is possible”.

Read more about Dr. Alina Lazar, and her team’s research on the Bluff Summer Internship Blog.