Asia’s Rising Scientists: Tanzima Hashem

Tanzima Hashem is working on computational techniques that would allow us to use location-based services without giving away our private personal data.

Tanzima Hashem
Associate Professor
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology

AsianScientist (Oct. 27, 2017) – Leveraging technology to improve lives—this has been the core motivation of Dr. Tanzima Hashem, an Associate Professor of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

A computer scientist by training, Hashem understands the importance of personal data privacy and wants to help people protect sensitive information about themselves. Keeping data private is also the seed from which she hopes to grow solutions to the problems of poor workplace conditions and the harassment of women in Bangladesh.

For her remarkable efforts, Hashem received the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World-Elsevier Foundation Award for Early-Career Scientists in the Developing World in February 2017.

  1. How would you summarize your research in a tweet (140 characters)?
  2. My research aim is to make technology usable and acceptable in solving real life problems, for the betterment of humanity.

  3. Describe a completed research project that you are most proud of.
  4. I worked on developing computational techniques to protect the privacy of people accessing location-based services. One example would be a commuter seeking the nearest bus stop from his or her current location using a GPS-enabled smartphone.

    Although location-based applications optimize the use of transport resources, reduce fuel consumption and allow people to plan their daily activities conveniently, privacy threats hinder the proliferation of such services in society. The main concern is that a service provider is able to obtain a complete user profile that not only includes a complete history of the user’s movements, but also reveals the type of information that has been accessed, as well as where and when it was accessed.

    My work allows people to have control over their sensitive data pertaining to health, habits and whereabouts, allowing them to access location-based services without the downsides. Research on privacy protection has a very high impact as privacy threats are now a global problem.

  5. What do you hope to accomplish with your research in the next decade?
  6. I hope to solve problems in the context of my country by applying my expertise in privacy research. In my country, women encounter harassment on roads, on public transportation and at public events. However, women do not feel comfortable sharing their harassment data. To solve this issue, my plan is to build an application that will help women report harassment anonymously and find safe paths from one place to another based on the harassment data.

    On the other hand, workers in my country live in poverty and are subjected to very poor working conditions in garments and textile industries. Yet, they hesitate to give feedback to their employers for fear of losing their jobs. I am thus working to develop technology-based solutions to collect workplace feedback in a privacy-preserving manner.

    These efforts are in their initial stages and there is a long way to go. Working under the constraints of limited funding for research and little support for PhD students, I will be very happy if I can contribute to my country through my research.

    Dr. Hashem receiving her 2017 Organization for Women In Science for the Developing World-Elsevier Foundation Award. Credit: Tanzima Hashem

  7. Who (or what) motivated you to go into your field of study?
  8. My father’s university teaching profession has always inspired and motivated me to build my career as a successful academician and researcher. Due to my passion in mathematics and problem solving, I decided to study computer science and engineering. Now, I am an associate professor in the same department from which I graduated.

  9. What is the biggest adversity that you experienced in your research?
  10. After completing my PhD from the University of Melbourne, Australia, I decided to come back home with a dream to contribute to my country. Bangladesh’s limited funding for research and poor support for PhD students are two of the biggest challenges I’ve faced. Here, students are mainly undergraduate and part-time Master’s Students.

    In spite of all these difficulties, I am grateful to my students without whom I would never have been able to continue pursuing quality research and publishing in top tier conferences and journals.

  11. What are the biggest challenges facing the academic research community today, and how can we fix it?
  12. Compared to developed countries, developing countries in the world have many problems that need urgent attention from researchers. However, researchers in developing countries do not have sufficient resources and research funding to address these problems.

    In contrast, researchers in developed countries may have sufficient funds, but they may not be aware of the urgent problems of developing countries. In my view, it is very important to increase the number of collaborations among researchers from developed and developing countries. Greater provision of international research grants helps as well.

  13. If you had not become a scientist, what would you have become instead?
  14. In my country, there is an unspoken rule that engineering is not for females. When I was selected for admission into both the medical and the computer science and engineering schools, my friends and relatives suggested that I choose the medical school. Thus, I would probably have been a doctor if I had not become a computer scientist.

  15. Outside of work, what do you do to relax?
  16. I love playing with my daughter, Tanisha, and pass time with my family members. These activities refresh me after long hours of work. I also like to travel to new places and enjoy the scenic beauty of the world.

  17. If you had the power and resources to eradicate any world problem using your research, which one would you solve?
  18. I would love to develop technology-assisted solutions for the early detection of human diseases and find the appropriate treatments for them.

  19. What advice would you give to aspiring researchers in Asia?
  20. Step up to challenges. If you have determination and put in sincere effort, no one can hold you back from the success.

This article is from a monthly series called Asia’s Rising Scientists. Click here to read other articles in the series.


Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photos: Tanzima Hashem.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

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