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Bianca Zadrozny started her career at IBM in the United States, taught at UFF and then returned to the multinational's research center in Brazil

Daniel BuenoSince February 2012, Computer Engineer Bianca Zadrozny has been coordinating the Natural Resource Data Analysis Department at the IBM Research Laboratory in Brazil. The goal of researchers working in this field is to develop advanced techniques for data analysis in order to transform the huge amount of data generated by companies in the oil, gas and mining industries into information that can improve processes and decision making. “Our focus is a type of analysis called ‘predictive modeling,’ which uses historical data to create models that generate predictions,” she says. At 37, Zadrozny holds a prominent position in the Rio de Janeiro laboratory of the multinational computer company IBM. The daughter of Brazilian parents, but born in Philadelphia, the researcher has close ties with her country of birth, which ended up influencing her professional career. During her undergraduate studies at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), she participated in an exchange program at the University of California, Berkeley.

After finishing her bachelor’s degree, Zadrozny applied for a PhD scholarship at the University of California, San Diego. “In the United States you can begin a PhD right after your undergraduate degree. I won the scholarship and developed my dissertation in the field of artificial intelligence, with a focus on data mining.” During her doctorate, she did two summer internships at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center, the main IBM research lab. After defending her dissertation, she was hired by the same IBM Data Analysis group, led by Indian researcher Chid Apte. Zadrozny’s professional career took a turn when she decided to return to Brazil in 2006. She quit a good job at IBM—in which she obtained a patent co-authored with scientist Naoki Abe entitled Methods for Multi-Class Cost-Sensitive Learning—and became a Professor in the Computer Science department at the Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF) in Niterói, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. “At UFF, I had the pleasure of working as a researcher for three years in ADDLabs (the Active Documentation and Intelligent Design Laboratory) led by Professor Ana Cristina Bicharra Garcia. That was my first experience with a project in the field of natural resources, developing a tool for monitoring equipment on an oil platform,” she says. After teaching at UFF for five years, Zadrozny was tempted to return to IBM when the company decided to set up a research center in Brazil. “I’ve always loved the academic environment, but my main motivation was to develop research projects in fields that interest me.” In January 2011, she was hired to work in the field of Data Analysis for Natural Resources and, only a year later, became manager of the department.

With the experience of someone who had already worked at an educational institution and the research center of a leading multinational, Zadrozny discusses her professional experience and the opportunities for those who want to become researchers. “In the private sector, research has to be aligned with the company’s business interests, whereas in academia a wider range of issues can be studied. Additionally, in a company there is more contact with day-to-day problems and a search for relevant, short-term results. In my experience at IBM, there was strong encouragement for teamwork with researchers from different fields and countries, to multiply our efforts,” she says.