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Mara Graziani is a discreet person who divides her time between IBM, ETH and the Institute of Informatics of the HES-SO Valais-Wallis. But when discussing her work, her discretion is replaced by a broad smile and she shares with passion about her research projects. There are so many things that interest her, and today she is less afraid to jump in and work on projects that ignite a spark of curiosity in her keen mind.

A researcher blazing her own trail

She admits that she was a bit lost when it came to choosing her path early in her studies. She hesitated, not really finding her happiness at the university in Italy. Then, through discussions with her professors and with their support, she found a scientific path that she wanted to pursue. Mara Graziani left Rome to do a Master's degree in Machine Learning and Machine Intelligence (artificial intelligence that learns or improves its performance based on processed data) at Cambridge University in England. She then joined the eHealth unit of the Institute of Informatics of the HES-SO Valais-Wallis for her PhD. She focused on deep learning, which is a type of artificial intelligence where the machine learns by itself, unlike programming where it only executes predetermined rules. Now a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Informatics, her remarkable work is all the more deserving of the spotlight because it makes the functioning of the algorithms that are omnipresent in our lives more transparent. Mara Graziani has received numerous awards for her work and has now been awarded a place in the Forum des 100 2022 as one of the 100 who make up the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

Forum des 100 - a recognition of the French-speaking part of Switzerland

The Forum des 100 is a platform for debate centered around an annual conference. For the past eighteen years, the Forum des 100 has brought together personalities from all walks of life. During a whole day, the guests debate questions essential to the future of Switzerland in order to promote the spirit of openness of the French-speaking region. A special issue dedicated to the "100 personalities who make up the French-speaking part of Switzerland" highlights a host of "Elected officials" who contribute to the spirit of innovation specific to French-speaking Switzerland. Mara Graziani was chosen to be part of these 100 personalities, thanks to the excellence of her doctoral thesis on the interpretability and explicability of artificial intelligence algorithms.

From eHealth to media support, field research

Research is sometimes disconnected from the field and the work Mara Graziani is working on is to reduce the gap between the academic will to answer future problems and the applicability to the field. She is trying to build a bridge between two communities: machine learning research and the medical community. The idea is to improve the reliability of the algorithms by making them more transparent, to give understandable tools to clinicians who, in turn, will be able to propose improvements and increase confidence in the algorithms used. Therefore it is part of the European network Networks of Excellence in AI, which brings together experts from different fields who are working to improve the quality of artificial intelligence algorithms. It is above all a question of proposing reliable technologies, in particular thanks to the European project AI4media which focuses on ethics, explicability and recognition of fakes in the media field. This willingness to explain the work of researchers to users allows us to discuss the ethical problems posed by information technologies: what are the rights and duties that arise from them? How does the tool I am using work? Is it reliable? The important thing, from Mara Graziani's point of view, is to build trust between the technology and the human.

Putting people first

With this in mind, she is also interested in improving the working environment of researchers. She imagines that one day she will be able to work with a psychologist on the theme of life in an academic environment. There are good and bad sides, as in any field of activity. She mentions the increasing pressure on Master's students, doctoral students or post-docs, the amount of work that is sometimes not well balanced and the lack of confidence that these young researchers feel. It is also the place of women in the particularly masculine field of technology that she approaches with a lot of distance. She has sometimes questioned her skills in the presence of an all-male working group and she hopes that the confidence she has acquired today can be shared with young women who wish to orient their careers towards the world of tech. Perhaps one day she can share her experience with schoolgirls to show them that all paths are possible, regardless of gender.