Dr Meriem BELGUIDOUM’s Bio
Dr Meriem BELGUIDOUM is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of New Technology of Information and Communication (NTIC) at Abdelhamid Mehri Constantine 2 University since October 2008. She has more than 17 years of experience in scientific research and 12 years in higher education. She obtained an Engineer degree in June 2002 from Constantine University, a Professional Master degree in the Development of Safe Software in September 2003 from the University of Paris (now called Sorbonne University), a Master of Research in Method IT for Industrial Systems in September 2004 from the University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in Versailles (France) and then a Ph.D. in Computer Science (with honors) in February 2008 from TELECOM Bretagne (France).
In May 2015, she obtained a post-doctoral degree (HDR) to supervise Ph.D. students and research projects in Computer Science. Throughout her challenging and rewarding career, Dr BELGUIDOUM gained expertise in software engineering, software development, software architecture, distributed systems, formal specification, etc. Her research interests include topics related to the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, service deployment, smart homes, healthcare, etc. During her teaching career, she has supervised more than 50 undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate student projects.
She has published more than 16 scientific publications in international journals, conferences, and workshops since 2005. Furthermore, she is a member of the program committee of around ten national and international conferences and journals. She also got involved in national and international research projects in multidisciplinary fields related to SOA, SoS, IoT, Cloud computing and Autonomous Systems.
Why did you get into STEM?
From an early age, I had a strong penchant for teaching mathematics, I was among the best in mathematics during several years, and I had an innovative spirit and a strong desire to excel at everything I do. I thrust into a leadership role with my younger siblings because I was the oldest child in my family. From the age of seven, I taught mathematics to my younger siblings and my neighbors during holidays with available means as writing on buildings’ walls.
In high school, I remember having an affinity for mathematics. I was also fascinated by algorithms, which taught me a novel thinking way to solve mathematics problems and defining clear steps for the solution. I also had the chance to have computer and internet access, and I was also passionate about Computer Science. Therefore, after obtaining a high school degree, I chose Computer Science Engineering at the University of Constantine.
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
Praise be to God, I have several accomplishments and the most significant one is the completion of my Ph.D in February 2008 in France. It was extremely stressful and challenging, considering some obstacles I had faced especially during my thesis period and generally during all my stay in France (6 years). I spent difficult moments, worked very hard to succeed, and earned two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. with honors from highly ranked universities in France.
During the last year of my Ph.D., I was pregnant and very sick. The expected date of my delivery was the same as the fixed date for my defense. At first, I was very stressed and I felt unable to manage my defense in such conditions. I took my courage in both hands by God’s blessings, and I fought to finish up with my doctoral dissertation and my defense successfully. I was blessed by my daughter’s birth eleven days later.
Another important achievement that I consider as a stepping-stone in my career was the position of Assistant Professor at Constantine 2 University in Algeria. I was selected among several applicants. It was 7 months after my Ph.D. defense. I returned to Algeria after overwhelming family problems. It was a real gift from God.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
As an Algerian woman in STEM, I faced many challenges during different periods in my life – from when I was a student in France until I became an Associate Professor in Algeria. I faced multiple forms of discrimination rooted in religion, gender equality, and migration.
In 2002, the time I obtained my engineer degree in computer science, I applied for a computer engineering job in a telecom company. I had no response for more than three months. Up to that time, men occupied more than 90% of STEM positions, and in Algeria, women are marginalized and considered less intelligent than men (especially in STEM). I decided to continue my postgraduate studies to become a Doctor and then a Professor. I passed my postgraduate selection exam. We were only 10 students selected among more than 300 applicants throughout eastern Algeria. At the same time, I was accepted to study for a Master’s degree in Paris. I decided to enroll at the best-ranked universities in France and to continue my Ph.D. thesis there.
I was fortunate enough to study at such great universities. However, I suffered (from racism) as an Algerian veiled woman, throughout my stay in France. It was impossible to find an internship in IT business companies. All my classmates found an internship except me. The head of the Master’s degree program warned me that I would not obtain my master’s degree if I did not remove my headscarf. The same thing happened during my thesis when I wanted to give some courses or lab sessions to students. Nonetheless, I managed to have two internships, the first one at INRIA Rocquencourt and the second one at TELECOM Bretagne (called now IMT-Atlantique) where I did my Ph.D. thesis.
My professional and soft skills, the quality of my work, my great achievements, and the ease of integration and adaptation into the group allowed me to succeed and achieve my goals.
As a woman, I had continually to work to be the best version of myself to set a good example, succeed and positively influence and impact others. By doing so, I was hoping to change the way many people think about veiled Arab and African women.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
I would like to share my experience to let women know that obstacles are a part of life, and we have to turn them to opportunities, we should never give up. Every journey begins with just a single step. We have to believe in ourselves, build self-confidence and always keep trying because the strongest factor for success is self-esteem: believing you can do it, believing you will do it believing you deserve it.
I think that STEM plays a key role in economic growth and prepares the next generation of innovators. Therefore, we have to invest in women by continuously developing their STEM knowledge: educating, training and guiding them, to achieve success and leading them to the best version of themselves, so they can impact their community. In the long run, they can contribute to the development of their country’s economy.
Women have to improve their skills, empower their careers and expand their professional networks to be surrounded by successful and inspiring leaders in STEM. Don’t forget that women are one half of the society; they give birth, educate and raise the other half so they are the entire society. They are natural leaders and their full engagement and unity are a powerful weapon to their success and strength.