Originally from Alicante, she studied Telecommunications Engineering in Madrid, had the highest ranking in her graduating class and received the national Telecommunications award. She completed her postgraduate studies in artificial intelligence with a grant from the Fundación Obra Social La Caixa at MIT, where she worked for five years on artificial intelligence and perception projects while also collaborating with researchers who developed inventions such as electronic ink, wearables, intelligent garments and the popular Google Glass. She received her PhD in 2000 for a pioneering work on modelling and recognition of human behaviour with computers. She worked at the Microsoft Research Laboratories in Redmond, Washington from 2000 to 2007, where she led studies on development of intelligent offices or touch gestures for screens.
She returned to Spain in late 2007 to create and lead a research group at the Telefónica R&D centre in Barcelona. Her team has received international recognition through participation in international congresses and invitations to speak at universities across the world, with more than 15 patents registered per year and a huge impact on Telefónica R&D innovation projects and the company’s areas of business. She works on a variety of subjects, including speech and text processing, personalisation and recommendation systems, development of intelligent mobiles, persuasive computing and Big Data analysis. Several of her projects have won international prizes. Her profile is unusual in what is normally a male preserve. In an effort to encourage new generations to pursue technology studies, above all women, she has been guest speaker International Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing.
This Award is sponsored by Deusto’s Engineering Faculty, FECYT and Banco Sabadell Foundation and has the collaboration of IK4, Emakunde, Biscay Regional Council, Bilbao City Council and Innobasque. The Faculty of Engineering announced the third edition of the award last 10 December and the deadline for the submission of applications was 2 February. This nation-wide distinction is a pioneering initiative to make more visible the work of women who contribute to the different new technology fields. The award intends to encourage women to enter the world of R&D, while stressing the importance of technology for economic growth and its value for the future of society.
In her lecture, Remedios Zafra addressed the life and work of Ada Byron, who could be taken as a paradigm of a pioneering woman in her field and could see the future and potential of the machines that would lead to modern programming. In her short life (1815-1852), this mathematician and writer became one of the most outstanding women in the history of engineering. She was the daughter of the poet Lord Byron, and is mainly known for her work on mechanical calculators and as the author of the first algorithm to be machine-processed. She is therefore considered a pioneer in computer programming.
Throughout her lecture, Remedios Zafra talked about a number of issues related to this figure of Victorian England, including the little visibility, not to mention the anonymity of her contributions. Her unique training and creative process, and her way to visualise and imagine the future through mathematics and programming were other aspects she mentioned in her talk. Also noteworthy is her claim for a “poetic science” and her self-definition as a “metaphysical analyst”, demanding the integration of the worlds of art and science.
She is a knowledgeable expert in the figure of Ada Byron, which she already explored in her recent book "(h)adas. Mujeres que crean, programan, prosumen, teclean”, winner of the Málaga Essay Award 2012. This essay, focused on the lives of Byron and his preceptor, the mathematician and astronomer Mary Somerville, addresses the relationship between new technologies and identity and gender issues.