Prof. Annalu Waller
Part of Women in STEM
My name is Annalu Waller, and I am a Professor of Computing. I have three different roles. I teach courses in human centred computing, I undertake research and I am also the Head of Computing at Dundee University. My research focuses on helping people with severe disabilities to talk. I work with disabled people to develop software for people who cannot use their own speech. It is very slow and exhausting to type everything you want to say. My research aims to help people to communicate faster by designing systems which are easier to use. I love what I do, helping to give people a voice. It's a great privilege. No day is the same, I might be working with a group of volunteers, I might be teaching or I might be helping students with their programming projects. The worst part of my job is not having enough time to do everything I would like to do.
So how do I get here?
My favourite subject at school was mathematics. This led to my first degree in computer science. It was very difficult for me at that time to find a programming job because of my cerebral palsy. I discovered by accident that I could study for a master's degree to become a rehabilitation engineer. I taught in this special school where I established an assistive technology department to help disabled pupils to learn. I then went back to university where I studied for a PhD in Computer Science. After a period of research posts, I became a lecturer and was promoted first to senior lecturer and then to Professor. When I was in primary school, everybody thought that I should study languages at university. I was very lucky that the teachers in my secondary school encouraged me to keep my options open. It was the only then that I realised that mathematics was what I loved. This enabled me to apply for a BSc in computer science. My MSc included subjects like anatomy and physiology. Within my research, I have gone back to my languages so that I can understand how people communicate. That has allowed me to use artificial intelligence in the design of communication aids for people who cannot speak. Who would have believed that I would come back to languages and use this in computer science.
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