#DigiWomenKA - Prof. Dr. Ina Schaefer

Female role models are important. They point out possibilities, help us to define our own goals and we can learn from their experiences. In our blog series #DigiWomenKA, Katharina Iyen meets one such role model from Karlsruhe’s digital sector once a month to find out more about them, their experiences and their commitment. Today she talks to Prof. Dr. Ina Schaefer, Professor of Software Engineering at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

By Katharina Iyen

I meet the Professor Dr. Ina Schaefer, who was recently appointed to KIT, in the main building of the Computer Science at KIT. Finding your office in this large building is a challenge. more difficult than I thought at first – and I ask a young students for directions. From Ina Schaefer, who is still on a call, I receive a warm welcome. I start our interview and immediately notice the relaxed, informal and casual atmosphere, we are immediately on a first-name basis – almost already standard with the #DigiWomenKA.

Then fall the fresh flowers in my office. Ina Schaefer tells me that she went to the International Women’s Day the day before she bought bouquets for her secretary and herself. I also notice the colorful posters with cool slogans on the whiteboards in the eye – I know them from the CyberForum. “Passion never fails” is the favorite poster by Ina Schaefer.

From East Frisia to the KIT via detours

The native Ostfriesin was born in Emden, the daughter of a pastor and a teacher. Today, she enjoys discussing political, philosophical and theological topics with her father – or dissects his colleagues’ sermons with him. So It wasn’t always relaxed. The computer science professor remembers: “When I was a pastor’s daughter in the village on a platter, that’s as Adults are no longer like that.” Ina Schaefer studied computer science in Rostock. She tells me that the “arrival of the Internet” in her home has brought this decision significantly. She was good at math, but didn’t want a become an actuary. That, she tells me, was another reason, why she went into computer science.

Fresh flowers for International Women's Day. Photo: Katharina Iyen
Fresh flowers for International Women’s Day. Photo: Katharina Iyen

During their During her studies she spent a year in England, but returned for her diploma thesis. back to Germany, to Saarbrücken to be precise. She worked there at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), before Artificial intelligence (AI) became really modern. She completed her doctorate in 2008 at the TU Kaiserslautern, and she also received a scholarship for Sweden. Back to Germany, she was promptly offered a deputy professorship at the TU Braunschweig. offered. What she didn’t know at the time was that this would take over ten years. last.

Drive for adventure

I would like to know what drives this woman. She answers me without hesitation and smiles: “Adventure East Germany. I already found this part of Germany always exciting, just like science. Just discover, that’s what I love me”. By this she also means inventing mathematical theories and then to prove it. Creativity is very important to them. And even when it comes to that, to provide its students with space for development and growth, it is right at the forefront. “I want to give people space to do cool things” she reports. She believes that the right environment, the right results. “Cooperation in science is also important,” adds she adds.

Quantum computing can improve software

Ina Schaefer is involved in political consulting alongside her work at the university and is also working in parallel on improving software. Your Specialist areas are software engineering and formal methods. In the improvement of Schaefer sees software as the main purpose of her work. “Software doesn’t have to be so be as bad as it currently is,” she explains with a laugh. Software development for quantum computing is currently one of their most important projects. Especially in combinatorial optimization, for example for route planning, load planning or scheduling, their research can help, since quantum computers could do this work faster. To this end, she is working on Design process in the software.

Ina Schaefer with author Katharina Iyen. Photo: Katharina Iyen
Ina Schaefer with author Katharina Iyen. Photo: Katharina Iyen

I follow up, how a quantum computer actually works and immediately realize how strong the new KIT professor is passionate about her subject. She explains to me – very simplified – that a quantum computer basically works with three quantum effects: The superposition, probabilistic measurement and entanglement. With the Superposition is calculated with several states simultaneously. The probabilistic measurement describes several runs, which then produce a probability distribution. The entanglement combines two Q-bits so that they behave in the same way.

Schaefer explains to me that these three quantum effects are used to build algorithms that can be used to solve difficult problems more quickly. As this all sounds very much like science fiction and future technology to me, I wonder if we will all have a quantum computer at home one day become. The quantum computing expert laughs: “I don’t think so, because a such a computer needs to be cooled too much. It is much more likely, that normal computers may have quantum-based components.” Another possible option would be to send future requests to quantum computers, which are then processed there. So the This is already the case in the Amazon and Google cloud, for example.

Driven However, the professor is keen to improve software in general. According to her they have “equally demonstrable properties”. This means that you can already before development, what the program should do. “There must be specifications – i.e. pre- and post-conditions – were created and the program be refined step by step,” she explains to me in simplified terms.

For Ina Schaefer, experimentation and patience are part and parcel of research. Photo: Patricia Bonaudo
For Ina Schaefer, experimentation and patience are part and parcel of research. Photo: Patricia Bonaudo

Lots of potential for networking and promoting women

In the Schaefer moved to the fan-shaped city for the professorship at KIT. She appreciates the friendliness of their colleagues on site and of the people in the region. Bathing in general. She is also a fan of the diverse cultural offerings of the City. I find out that she has an annual pass for the zoo and a subscription to the Badische Neuste Nachrichten (BNN) has.

On the subject of She still sees potential for expansion in the networking of women in the Karlsruhe digital scene. She herself is still poorly networked locally, which after this short time is not is very surprising. Nevertheless, a lot can be done to promote women happen, says Schaefer. Schaefer sees development potential but also in the fact that women dare to seize opportunities: “It There is a tendency to overthink everything instead of just getting started, keyword: ‘The grass is always greener on the other side’. This often prevents women from simply and seize opportunities. We weigh up too much, despite existing competencies.” Schaefer’s philosophy is to take advantage of opportunities that arise. to seize the opportunity.

#DigiWomenKA completely private

I would still like to know from this #DigiWomen what she is actually not so good at. She honestly admits that she could definitely become more self-confident – which really surprises me. But she tells me with a smile that she is particularly good at remembering criticism. Sometimes she wishes she could simply react more repartee to inappropriate comments. Especially because she doesn’t like her successes to be publicized. For example, the “Most Influential Paper Award”, which she received. This prize was awarded to her in 2022 by the organizers of the “Software Product Line Conference” for a paper from 2010, which has proven to be particularly valuable to the scientific community over the twelve years since its publication and which has led to a series of further papers based on it. For Schaefer, this shows that you sometimes have to be patient until the real benefits and relevance of scientific results become apparent.