Mary-Anne Williams

STEMM Profile: Professor Mary-Anne Williams | Computer Scientist in Robotics | University of Technology Sydney | Sydney | NSW

Professor Mary-Anne Williams [Image: UTS]

“Scientists want to make a difference, create more leadership opportunities for women. Engage them! Excite them! Understand and recognise their efforts!”

Professor Mary-Anne Williams is listed on the Robohub‘s inaugural Top 25 Women in Robotics (2013). She has a PhD in Computer Science, Masters in Law, and is a leading authority in artificial intelligence with transdisciplinary strengths in social robotics, human-robot interaction, cognitive robotics, belief revision, data analytics, IP Law and Privacy Law.

Mary-Anne is Director of The Magic Lab at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS); a Fellow in the Stanford University Centre for Legal Informatics; Guest Professor at the University of Science and Technology China; a Fellow in the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.

Mary-Anne is a non-executive director at KR Inc since 2008, a US scientific foundation. She chaired the Australian Research Council’s Excellence in Research for Australia Committee that undertook a national evaluation of research in Mathematics, Information and Computing Sciences in 2012. She is very active in the research community having held senior posts journal and conference boards including Conference Chair of the International Conference on Social Robotics in 2014, and Review Editor for the prestigious Artificial Intelligence Journal, serves on the Editorial Board for AAAI/MIT Press, the top-tier Information Systems Journal and the ACM Eugene L. Lawler Award for Humanitarian Contributions within Computer Science and Informatics.

Mary-Anne has a passion for innovation, science, technology and engineering. She established the UTS Robot Soccer team that has an enviable record of success at international competitions. She has helped to generate more than $12M in research funding and is Chief Investigator of 12 Australian Research Council Projects that focus on innovation and advanced technologies. Mary-Anne led nine of these projects as first CI and six have international partners. She leads the UTS partnership on a DESCA Project 2014, FP7 Model Consortium, VOICE: Virtual Open Incubation Ecosystem (2014 – 2019). This project involves 8 international university partners and aims to help bridge the gap in the broader entrepreneurial development ecosystem by providing an international, virtual innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem based on open innovation, crowdsourcing and co-creation principles. She leads the UTS Social Robotics Project that explores how Australia’s only PR2 robot, whose crowdsourced name is Gutsy, can develop social intelligence in its dealings with humans; and the Intelligent Social Vehicles Project that seeks to develop innovative methods for autonomous vehicles to work together. Mary-Anne works with her research team in The Magic Lab to bring science fiction to reality; the research goal is to design autonomous decision-making technologies that can learn and adapt as they collaborate in pursuit of their mission.

What is the biggest challenge to all women pursuing a career in science?

The lack of leadership opportunities puts women at a significant disadvantage in their career, and limits their ability to make a lasting impact and effect change.

What do you believe are the greatest attributes of a successful leader?

A leader has to have the curiosity and imagination to see a better future, the ability to develop strategies to get there, and to inspire and energise others to execute the strategies.

Who and/or what inspires you to achieve?

The exhilaration of discovery! The scientists who discover the insights that make what others see as impossible, possible.

How do we keep more females engaged in scientific careers? How do we retain women?

Scientists want to make a difference, create more leadership opportunities for women. Engage them! Excite them! Understand and recognise their efforts!

What advice would you give early career researchers in science today?

Focus on high-orbit innovation in your scientific work, pursue leadership opportunities to ensure high-impact.

Follow Mary-Anne on Twitter: @SwizzleFish