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GirlGeek of the Week
July 1999

Katie Moussouris

Katie Moussouris

I have been taking electronic devices apart since I could reach the telephone. My mom, another GirlGeek, eventually got a phone with a transparent case, then bought me a Commodore 64 in 3rd grade. I taught myself BASIC and wrote a program to make a rocket take off on screen. I was obsessed with Sci-Fi even then, and pretty much wanted Spock to have my babies-obviously, my understanding of how things worked in the non-techno-sci-fi world took a bit longer to develop. :-)

I was the first girl to take AP Computer Science at my high school, and the only girl on the Computer Team. Despite my talent and interest in math and computer science, I was told by teachers to drop AP Calc because I happened to do poorly on the first quiz. Years later, when I took multivariable calc in college, I not only got an A, but I also tutored the subject while I was taking it. The ego stomping had taken its toll on me, however, and I opted to study biochemistry and molecular biology (like mom).

While attending Simmons College (all girls, all the time), I began working at the MIT Center for Genome Research, a part of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. I worked on the Human Physical Mapping Project, and various genotyping projects during my first year. What I thought was going to be a "lab job" turned out to be a "computer job" and my passion for computers was reawakened. I joined the Computer Systems Group and took over much of desktop support and management. After nearly three years at Whitehead, I became the Systems Administrator for the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, where I helped design the computer system for a new lab set to open in early '00.

This year I'm working at Harvard in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science as a Systems Administrator. I'm still putting myself through college at the moment, planning to transfer to a school where I can pursue my latest super-nerdy interest: Quantum Computing. I also plan to minor in math and possibly women's studies.

I still have a hard time being one of very few women (and very very few young, single women) in computing, but I'm absolutely determined to fulfill my nerdy aspirations to do research in computer science. I also plan to give presentations on Careers for Women in Computer Science to schools in the Boston area this fall. I think that mentorship of young women is one of the most important things a GirlGeek can do. And it works! My little sister just blew the curve in her physics class...

When did you first discover your love and/or obsession with computers and technology?

I was an unstoppable dissector of electrical/mechanical gadgets around the house, much to my mother's chagrin. I taught myself BASIC and thus began my lifelong love of reading technical manuals.

How do you earn a living?

My duties at Harvard range from computer systems planning, engineering, and standardization, to Y2K and security assessment and compliance. I do some Web design and administration as well, and advise senior management on the future technical direction of the Division.

Do you consider yourself a Geek?

Does Homer like donuts??

What is your favorite Web site?

At the moment, I'd have to say my friend Joe's ejournal page I check it every day for chronicles of his many (mis)adventures. Others that I hit often:

GirlGeeks. A great site, need I say more? A self-described "running-with-scissors approach to pop-culture obloquy--daily." Recently famous for providing BackOrifice, a Microsoft Windows 95 and 98 "remote administration tool." Long-time virtual home of my friend Deth Veggie. Hack the planet! Oh, and Free Kevin, already. I have been looking to the penultimate Geek Girl, Jennifer Meyers, for wisdom (and a convenient BugTraq security mailing list archive) for years. Homepage of my mother's people, Polynesians hailing from the Mariana Islands. Mysterious. Artsy-fartsy. I love it!

What do you do when you are not working?

I frequently lift freeweights at the gym, and infrequently play freeform noise-music with my roomies. I sculpt in fimo (especially the glow-in-the-dark variety), and do a good deal of reading (sci-fi, poetry, what have you). And, of course, I muck around on my Linux box for hours on end. ;->


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