Dana (Glasner) Dachman-Soled ’06S, originally of State College, PA, knew she wanted to enter a field of science or engineering since she was young. “I decided to attend Stern College for Women because I wanted to have a ‘dorming’ experience but still be in a Jewish environment,” she says.
While at Stern, she double majored in math and computer science. “It was challenging to balance a full course load of Judaic studies as well as secular studies and still have time for any extracurriculars,” says Dachman-Soled, who was also a member of the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program. “I remember staying up late night after night. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it all, from the wonderful friends I made to the more analytic perspective to Jewish learning than what I had been exposed to in high school.”
Dachman-Soled supplemented her computer science classes for the computer science portion of her double major at New York University, and enjoyed taking non-required physics courses with Dr. Anatoly Frenkel, professor of physics at Stern. Dachman-Soled remarks, “In spite of the fact that Dr. Frenkel did not teach either of my majors, he showed personal interest in my advancement. His support and encouragement were, and still are, very valuable to me.”
Dachman-Soled also says she learned a lot from Dr. Michael Dalezman, assistant professor of mathematics. “I am indebted to him for teaching me many new and exciting areas of math,” she says.
After graduating Stern, Dachman-Soled attended Columbia University, where she earned her PhD in computer science. She is currently in her first year post-doc at Microsoft Research New England in Cambridge, MA. Dachman-Soled’s research is mainly in cryptography, as well as other areas of theoretical computer science such as computational learning theory and property testing.
“Modern cryptography is actually an extremely broad field,” explains Dachman-Soled. “Generally, what my peers and I work on is constructing algorithms that allow mutually distrustful parties to perform joint computations while guaranteeing correctness, privacy and/or fairness for the honestly behaving parties. For example, how many people have used a search engine to find information on a topic which they would be embarrassed to reveal publicly? Ideally, we would like to get the functionality of using a search engine while at the same time keeping our queries private. Cryptography allows you to get the output of the search engine’s algorithm, such as links to webpages relating to your query, without revealing to the search engine – whom you may not trust not to publish information about you – what you were querying.”
Computer science is a field that is dominated by men and Dachman-Soled says that it can sometimes be hard for women to feel comfortable in such a field, though she has never felt it personally. “For instance, it may be difficult for a woman to approach a well-known man in the field at a conference and start talking to him about his or her own research,” she explains. “However, this is the way a lot of collaborations begin. Fortunately, I have found that the few women who are in the field are very invested in helping other women do well. They are usually more than happy to serve as a mentor.”
With regards to her career, Dachman-Soled says, “I will be happy as long as I can continue to do research and work on problems that are interesting to me. Some options are jobs in academia or in a research lab owned by a company.”
Dachman-Soled has some advice for undergraduate students at Yeshiva University who wish to pursue careers in computer science: “A lot of people are turned off because introductory college courses for computer science are usually programming classes, typically not a very creative discipline. People may also feel stifled by the complicated syntax or frustrated by the technical aspects of actually getting programs to run, and I think it’s unfortunate that this is the first taste many people get of computer science.” She says that computer science is actually a highly creative and diverse field. “I, personally, am most attracted to the more mathematical aspects of computer science, in which we study many deep and fundamental problems relating to mathematics. In my opinion, these concepts are more accessible and intuitive than the fundamental problems in other areas of advanced mathematics.” She recommends that students take a more advanced-level course or learn about the different sub-areas of computer science before making a final decision about their major.
Regarding work-life balance, her advice to women is, “If you believe that this is what you really want to do and believe you have a contribution to make to the field, you should go for it and not sell yourself short, despite the difficulties.” Dachman-Soled is also eager to mentor undergraduate students at Stern interested in pursuing careers in computer science.
To reconnect with Dana Dachman-Soled or other YU alumni working in the field of computer science, visit www.yu.edu/alumnidirectory.