PhD in Computer Science Profile: Vera Moffitt


About Vera:
I am a research scientist at Lockheed Martin, on leave to complete my doctorate work. I have two small children who keep me busy and a very supportive husband.

Why did you enroll in this program?
I worked full-time as an applied research engineer for 10 years when I decided that I needed to compliment my breadth of skills with a depth in one technical area. Information Science has the kind of mixture of technical and human elements that I found appealing, and my previous background in AI and HCI served as a solid foundation to build on. And I also got tired of my customers and colleagues asking why I am not a “Dr. Moffitt” yet. :)

What are your research interests? What was your dissertation topic?
I am interested in document retention policies and practice, and specifically the over-retention in the digital realm. My dissertation topic is a query language for temporal graphs and an efficient system implementation of this language, with application to information over-retention.

What are your academic/career goals?
I will be returning to the industry upon completion of my doctorate. My eventual goal is to influence product development through application of novel approaches in a leadership position.

What do you enjoy most about the PhD program?
I like to learn something new every day, and the PhD program provides the challenges and opportunities for learning daily. The second appeal is to be surrounded by and working with very intelligent and creative people, both faculty and other students.

What coursework/research has been the most challenging so far? Why?
The most challenging, by far, has been the process of defining the dissertation topic. There is no well-defined way to go about it, it meanders and takes longer than one would expect. There is no way to learn it other than by doing, and it is very much about self-discovery.

What experiences have you had with the faculty at Drexel?
My experience with the faculty has been positive. Most faculty members are generous with their time, which they have precious little of. I was not exposed to many faculty members through my course work, so it takes initiative to reach out and meet others, to discover shared interests, but the effort is definitely worth it.

What would be your advice to incoming students?
Keep an open mind, be flexible. Research takes on a life of its own. Also, your relationship with your research/thesis advisor is the second most important success factor besides persistence, so build a strong one.

What are your current research projects?
My thesis work on temporal graphs is my primary research project at the moment. Temporal graphs are graphs that change over time. For example, the Web can be thought of as a graph, which changes every time a link between two websites is added or removed. This work is only a few months old and the topic is rich in challenges. I am also working on extensions to WebdamLog, a distributed datalog language for personal information management.

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