Staff Spotlight - Michaela and Mustafa
This month we caught up with Dr Michaela MacDonald and Dr Mustafa Bozkurt. They have both recently been appointed as the new Co-Leads of the EECS Equalities Team. We spoke to them about their new roles, greatest achievements and their careers.
How long have you worked at Queen Mary and what is your current role?
Michaela: I joined the Queen Mary community as a PhD student at the Centre for Commercial Law Studies (CCLS) in 2009. Throughout the years, I have gained a varied experience in a number of different posts, from a Teaching Assistant, Research Assistant, to e-learning and Open Access Associate. I am currently Lecturer at EECS and Teaching Fellow at CCLS. My original background is in law, but as the social fabric of our society is increasingly shaped by emerging and disruptive technologies, it is crucial that we embrace an interdisciplinary approach to our research and teaching.
Mustafa: I am currently a Lecturer in EECS, I joined Queen Mary as a Lecturer in 2014. I received my PhD in CS from UCL. Before joining QMUL, I worked at several UK universities (King’s College, UCL, Roehampton and Birkbeck) at teaching and research posts.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in this field?
Michaela: From an early stage of my Master studies (Masaryk University, Czech Republic), I was intrigued by the impact of laws, social norms and environmental constraints, especially in Cyberspace, on users’ behaviour and their interaction. I am interested in understanding how to design systems that foster positive aspects of social interaction and how to create laws that focus mainly on the human, much less on the machine.
Mustafa: Although I studied Astronomy as my undergraduate, I always enjoyed coding from an early age. I had my first computer when I was 12 and found out how much I like problem solving aspect of programming while writing small programs in Commodore Basic. While I was pursuing a PG study in Astronomy, my friends (who study CS) encouraged me to switch to CS and so I did. Fast forward 18 years and I am a lecturer in CS.
What is your greatest career/non-career achievement?
Michaela: Completing my PhD while having two children. I won’t do that again. And more recently, just staying alive and reasonably sane through multiple lockdowns. It’s back to basics.
Mustafa: One of the proudest moments of my life was seeing the result of a project I lead while working for a non-profit organisation for people with disability. The project was finding funding for several artists (with various disabilities) in Turkey to join an international art festival. Unfortunately, this kind of project is very challenging due to the hardships in securing funding, arranging accommodation for the needs of the attendees, solving the problems of the attendees and many other reasons. In the end, when you see the happiness of the artists performing at an international festival, you realise what you accomplished and it worth every effort and more.
You have recently become co-leads of the EECS Equalities team – tell me more about this role and why you have taken it on?
Michaela: The previous team has done an amazing job in securing the renewal of the Athena Swan Bronze Award for EECS last year and we hope to continue building on their previous work and to identify specific action points for strengthening the EDI agenda within the School and beyond. Above all, I want to learn about other people’s experiences and act as an ally in bringing about a positive change in our collective working and learning conditions.
Mustafa: Our role primarily is promoting equality and diversity in EECS and working towards making EECS a better workplace for everyone regardless of their gender, belief, or race. The main reason I took this role is both Michaela and I believe we can make a difference in transforming EECS int to a better workplace for everyone.
What do you hope to achieve in your time as Equality Leads within the School?
Michaela: I hope that we will be able to commit to and implement institutional policies fostering greater staff diversity, addressing the differential needs of groups with protected characteristics, or supporting staff with caring responsibilities.
Mustafa: We also want to make sure that at the end of our term, we will leave a better workplace by making sure the school implemented the necessary policies regarding equality and diversity, creating more effective ways for the staff and students to voice their concerns to the Head of School and the SMT and working towards transforming workplace culture in the School.
If you could tell a prospective student one thing about Queen Mary, what would it be?
Michaela: It’s really about the people – the colleagues, mentors, friends and students I have met throughout my years at Queen Mary, have become an integral part of my life.
Mustafa: You will be joining the most diverse Russell Group University.