Tallinn University of Technology

February 11 is the International Women in Science Day. We bring you stories about TalTech women who talk about their research, studies and their leisure time. Cecilia Monoli from Italy and Valentyna Tsap from Ukraine gave us a little overview of their life and future plans. 

Cecilia Monoli ja Valentyna Tsap
Cecilia Monoli ja Valentyna Tsap. Fotod: erakogu


I come from a typical “big and loud” Italian family, full of inspirational people from whom I am trying to learn as best as I can.

Biorobotics in Tallinn

I studied Biomedical Engineering at Polytechnic University of Milano, both Bachelor’s and Master’s. During my Master’s I decided to participate in the Erasmus+ project and ended up spending a year at TalTech. Tallinn was my first destination choice and I fell in love with the city as soon as I landed. During the Erasmus year, I met fabulous people and friends with whom I am still in touch.

Importantly, during my Erasmus year, I attended a course in Robotics, held by Professor Maarja Krusmaa and I decided to ask her if it was possible to do my Master’s thesis in her laboratory. This is how I ended up meeting the people with whom I am working right now. Because after my Master’s thesis, the Center of Biorobotics asked me to start a PhD with them.

So, here I am! Since October 2019 I am a PhD student of TalTech Center of Biorobotics. My research is in the field of environmental sensing and combines the amazing technologies developed by the Lab with my medical knowledge. More precisely, my PhD is focused on mixed-perceptive investigation of motion and kinematic of both humans and animals. We are currently working on different projects, one foresees the development of a monitoring method for underwater rehabilitation and will involve hospitalized kids with cerebral paralysis; while another is focused on analysis of motion of dogs. I can’t express enough how proud I am to be a part of all this!

Cecilia Monoli. Foto: erakogu
Cecilia Monoli

Make discoveries and help others

I’ve always been keen on helping others and since I was young I’ve tried to combine this willing with my curious and “nerd-ish” character. I think the main reason that convinced me to start this PhD is that I had the opportunity to balance this mixture. I am trying to merge my Informatics and academic soul, the willing of discover and the prospect, in my little, of helping people. In this research field, I feel I found a way to be helpful and figure out something.

Women in IT environment

I have to admit I never thought about being in “a man environment” or doing “a man job”, probably because I like my job and I would do so regardless of the composition of the workers surrounding me. I also have to say that my working experience couldn’t be better. I have the honor and pleasure of working with very nice people, who are always there for me, and always willing to help. The work environment could not be more vital and proactive.

Free time

During this lock-down I’m not doing too much. Trying to be active and read. In “normal” times I like to go running and walking, enjoying Estonian wonderful nature. Also, I played volleyball for most of my life and I would like to find a volleyball team here in Tallinn soon too.

Achievements and plans for future

Considering my academic life, since I just started, I think my biggest achievement was my Master’s degree and my first publication. As for my plans, they consist in building a good research network and carry out my researches as good as I can. Thinking about my personal life, I would like to build a family in a few years but no pressure!

Acceptance of E-Identity

I was born and grew up in Ukraine, where I also gained my Bachelor’s degree. After that, I graduated from TalTech Master’s programme e-Government technologies and services. I started my PhD studies in the field of E-governance and got a position at the Department of Software Sciences, School of IT. I am also a member of Information Systems Group. My research is devoted to electronic identity. I am researching public acceptance of e-ID, a multidisciplinary phenomenon on the border of IT and Social Sciences. Very often it becomes a subject for discussions between my colleagues, but myself I lean towards IT. The topic of my research evolved from my Master’s and I am glad to have an opportunity to continue with it.

Ever since my childhood, I felt comfortable around computers and English. My parents were always encouraging and supportive, when they saw there was a potential in my interests. I remember, they were saying that it would be nice if I went to study abroad. Later they helped me with that, I owe them.

Valentyna Tsap
Valentyna Tsap. Foto: erakogu

TalTech changed everything

Honestly, I didn’t have a clear vision back then. My twenties were approaching, and I just knew that I’d like to pursue a Master’s degree abroad. My background was linked to IT and International Relations. And one day the opportunity presented itself. TalTech and E-government study programme found me and that changed everything.

Eventually, when the studies were about to finish and I was wrapping up my thesis, I was suggested to try my chances in applying for a PhD position. It was big for me and I went for it. Shortly, after I was enrolled, my first scientific paper based on my Master’s was accepted to a conference — my first achievement in the academic career. It is special for me because it fosters me. Frankly, if you’re consistently working on anything, you will learn inevitably, even you might not realize it right away. My field, aside from the obvious aspects related to its specifics, also teaches me to be disciplined, systematic, rational, objective, analytical, creative. Additionally, it is also super exciting because my job lets me traveling and I love it!

No stereotypes

In Estonia, where IT is thriving, both genders are involved, although not evenly. I feel very comfortable here, I haven’t witnessed or experienced myself any particular stereotypes. The only thing I’m often asked is when I started my PhD studies as I am 25 and indeed, in most situations, I am one of the youngest among other students/colleagues.

Free time

Simple things — reading, exercising, cooking, spending time with friends. I have interest in nutrition science, healthy lifestyle, self-development, spiritualism. As a hobby and previous job, I was into professional photography. Sometimes, I still take pictures just for myself. Since I moved to Estonia, I have been (at least till now) traveling a lot, and even when it’s a work trip, I try to enjoy it to the fullest and soak in every moment of it. I learned that the balance between work and rest is crucial, so I am trying maintain it. Taking care of yourself is also a job.

Achievements and plans for future

I would not distinguish any particular achievements. I am just glad where I came considering where I started from. I am grateful to myself for every little step I’ve made and to those who have been helping and supporting me in every possible way. When I lose my motivation or will to continue (because let’s face it, it’s not always success and triumph), I just go back in my mind to the times when I was at the beginning, not knowing what is out there, and I it makes me inspired again. Right now, I am focusing on finishing my PhD. Soon I will start compiling my manuscript. I have several ideas in my head about what to do next but I also choose not to rush into anything as I learned to trust the situation. Time will show.