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Maria Dubovitskaya, Predoctoral Security Researcher, and Member of IBM Academy of Technology,

Maria Dubovitskaya, Predoctoral Security Researcher, and Member of IBM Academy of Technology

By Chris Sciacca

Ballet or mathematics? Most ordinary eight year olds girls would probably choose ballet, but Maria Dubovitskaya was anything but an ordinary eight year old.

One day, after ballet lessons in the Moscow suburb of Domodedovo, Maria’s parents were running a little late. She heard other children, mostly boys her age, clacking away on IBM 286 PC keyboards in the classroom next door. Peeking through a crack in the door Maria was overcome with curiosity.

“I remember they were drawing different figures on the screens and magically changing their shapes and colors simply by typing on the keyboard. I just had to try this out for myself.”

When her parents finally arrived, she immediately asked them to sign her up for a computer class.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but thinking back now, my parents were very supportive. In fact, a few days later my dad bought me a programming book for kids called The Encyclopedia of Professor Fortran, and also brought home a very simple computer. I was hooked,” said Maria.

SP MariaBallet

Maria Dubovitskaya.

Maria wrote her first program in just a few weeks, a multiple choice quiz, using the computer language BASIC. As she grew up, her interest in computer science surpassed that for ballet. And once she reached the Russian National Nuclear Research University her coach asked her to make what she called “one of the most difficult choices of my life.”

“I had my passion equally in both. But I knew the career of a dancer is quite short and the dedication required to become really world class doesn’t allow for distractions, like computer classes. This, combined with the prospects of an exciting career in mathematics and computer science, shifted my focus.”

Thankfully for IBM and the field of computer science, Maria chose those computer classes and she just recently received her PhD in cryptography at IBM’s research lab in Zurich.  Part of a team of cryptographers she has been granted two patents with several more pending in the security field including last year’s US Patent #8,577,029: Oblivious transfer with hidden access control lists.

“The idea is simply that, only you know what you are looking for. The database knows you have the right credentials to access the data, but that’s all. We call it oblivious transfer with anonymous access control.”

For example, if a pharmaceutical company is researching a particular new drug they may want to query a DNA database. To avoid exposing themselves, Maria’s invention would give the company a way to search the database without leaving any breadcrumbs — breadcrumbs that could be used by the competition. The same example could be used for patent databases by companies that don’t want to expose a new field they are considering for investment.

Chris Sciacca, IBM Communications

Chris Sciacca, IBM Communications

When Maria isn’t in the lab, she is involved in programs like IBM E.X.C.I.T.E (Exploring Interest in Technology and Engineering) which is aimed recruiting middle school girls into the field of science, technology, engineering and math.

“I’d be näive to think that every girl will choose math and science over dancing, but at the very least we are breaking stereotypes and giving them the option to choose what they really like and not what history thinks they should choose.”

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May 27, 2016
6:10 am

good change it with the aged one. The solution is usually, probably. Some own speculated that the Mac and Cheese nice.

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Having read this I thought it was really informative. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this article together. I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!. I have found following MCQ is really helpfull for CSE student

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April 17, 2014
10:43 am

Great job , keep doing it !

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April 9, 2014
10:22 pm

I didn’t know what to expect, but thinking back now, my parents were very supportive.

Posted by: Casquette Bulls
April 9, 2014
5:38 pm

Well done to Maria. Very good to hear

Posted by: Richard
April 9, 2014
5:37 pm

Well done to Maria

Posted by: Richard
April 9, 2014
5:40 am

Fantastic story, charming young lady, a big decision, great results. Congratulation Maria to your success and all the best in your private life as well.

Posted by: Gabriela
April 8, 2014
5:33 am

Great- an inspiring and interesting story!

Posted by: Katherine
April 7, 2014
9:30 pm

Very inspiring story !
I like the sentence ‘ choose what they really like and not what history thinks they should choose’

Posted by: Maggie
April 7, 2014
9:30 pm

Very inspring story !
I like the sentence ‘ choose what they really like and not what history thinks they should choose’

Posted by: Maggie
April 7, 2014
2:29 pm

hi Maria, I am also from Domodedovo region (Belye Stolby). Very inspiring story. You are making us all proud !

Posted by: Tatyana
April 7, 2014
10:16 am

Computer science and mathematic shouldn’t have a distinction between a boy or a girl subject. Both should be treated equals and has the same rights for a child to develop an interest to it.

Great story and great share to inspire many parents who are reading this, to think outside the box. Though, I believe lots of IBMers are forward thinking bunch

Posted by: Alex Chan
April 7, 2014
4:35 am

Inspiring story to Maria to follow your instincts… Great going Maria..

Posted by: Asmita
April 6, 2014
9:44 pm

Great! very inspiring post about Maria

Posted by: Kishorchandra Mhatre
April 6, 2014
1:07 am

Thanks for the post, very inspiring

Posted by: Afaf Ibrahim
April 4, 2014
12:05 pm

Thanks for posting this fascinating article about a very impressive young woman.

Posted by: lee sheppard
April 4, 2014
11:58 am

I agree with Maria that achieving as a renouned performer takes tremendous effort, which she correctly admitted not finding time for, while choosing Maths career. I beg to different with a comment about gender bias. Gender bias can be observed where there are physical strength advantage or height advantage (as in certain sports) or rigid patriarchal societies present. When it comes to thinking, no such gender bias can be present. Since as long as you have a good educational background, or a good talented gene in your dns configuration and as long as you eat food which strengthen the mind even further, and as long as you are ready to put your heart and soul for what you aspire, there is no limit for you, Maria just proved the same.

Posted by: Abhishek
April 4, 2014
7:05 am

Ballet or crypto
All of it a dance
Let passion be your motto
Give life a chance

Posted by: praveen
April 4, 2014
1:53 am

Good decision in the end. It is hard to decide from two good options when you have interest in both. Its inspiring!

Posted by: Harsh Dev
April 4, 2014
12:58 am

That is very inspiring!Passion towards what we do will make us excel in everything we pursue. Go girl! :)

Posted by: Swetha Gowneethala
April 3, 2014
7:10 pm

Thank you for sharing your story, Maria, it’s a wonderful example of the diverse backgrounds from which IBMers come!

Posted by: Melody Balcet
April 3, 2014
6:29 pm

This was fantastic! I would love to read more. This is why people choose IBM.

Posted by: Lachlan
April 3, 2014
5:06 pm

Very inspiring. Way to go Maria!

Posted by: Jyotsna K Narayanan
April 3, 2014
2:08 pm

Thanks for the great story. I am an engineer and manage a global team that provides engineering consultation for external clients. I, too, have a passion for Ballet and have figured out that I didn’t have to give it up completely, but can keep myself involved by teaching when I can. It’s a great way to stay connected with ballet, but an even better way to influence young adults especially when they ask me what I do for IBM.

Posted by: Susan Zichittella
April 3, 2014
8:26 am

I wish you All the very best Maria….

Posted by: Raja
April 3, 2014
7:57 am

Such a great story! Way to go Maria!

Posted by: Vivek Rengaraj
April 3, 2014
2:14 am

Wonderful and it is an inspiration for all of us

Posted by: Edwin
April 3, 2014
1:18 am

So Nice Lady

Posted by: Bhavya
April 3, 2014
12:24 am

That’s all good to happen to her life, because of her parents but these are all she is having know, that’s all are pre-planned knowledge about the computer science as well as computer basics. And her parents will bring the enclyopedia is a predicted. But the she is done a good job, instantly she is very much intrested in doing special thing in the life .

Posted by: deepu
April 2, 2014
10:47 pm

Wow, you got my interest, nice story

Posted by: Bernard
April 2, 2014
5:24 pm

This should have really been one of the most difficult choices of her life but that’s so good that she has opportunities to realize her talent in IT area. Good luck to you, Maria! I feel proud of you.

P.S. Yes, “The Encyclopedia of Professor Fortran’! So nice book for children, I also had it in my childhood!:)

Posted by: Sofia Golosova
April 2, 2014
12:03 pm

It is a great story of choosing computer science over other endeavors and of accomplishment.

Posted by: Mark Matel
April 2, 2014
10:44 am

Good Job Maria!!

Posted by: Jyothi Pallerla
April 2, 2014
10:36 am

The world lost a ballerina and gained a crypto-scientist. I truly respect her choice, but still it makes me feel a little sad…

Posted by: Ex-Musician / SW Architect
April 2, 2014
10:13 am

very inspiring

Posted by: Leonardo Shikida
April 2, 2014
5:39 am

A very inspiring story and a great example of a woman in ”action”:)

Posted by: Maryna Chvojkova
April 2, 2014
2:42 am

Beautiful story. this is just a reminder that human beings are capable of so much more than we allow ourselves and there really are no limits to what we can do. We just need to make the choice and be willing to take whatever actions that are required to support the choices.

Posted by: Phyllis Migwi
April 1, 2014
5:58 pm

Maria’s story is inspiring and a great lesson to us all to never stop being curious and always look “look through the crack in the door”. You may see you life through it!

Posted by: John Baragwanath
March 31, 2014
4:29 pm

Maria, a heartwarming story. I have two young granddaughters – both excellent students at 6 and 9 – with the nine year old excelling at math. Both of them also love the ‘arts’ the 6 year old ballet, the 9 year old playing the Viola. Both say they want to be a dancer and a musician — but, I hope they also want to take advantage of an exciting and rewarding career in math, science, or any other area that excites them!

Posted by: Marion Tessar
March 31, 2014
5:43 am

Very nice thought. We need to change the way people think about specific gender in the past.

Posted by: Pravith
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