Flaura & Ira Winston
Photo by Candace diCarlo
Talk about harmonic convergence. Perhaps it was serendipity that brought Flaura and Ira Winston together at Penn, but the two were a perfect fit for each other - and for Penn - from the day they met in the fall of 1980.
Both were undergraduate students in computer and information science, and both were working in what was then called the Moore School Computing Facility. Ira, having just completed his bachelor's degree, was continuing on to his master's under that unique Penn program that lets undergraduates pursue both simultaneously; Flaura, then a sophomore, would go on to do the same, then continue on to doctorates in engineering and medicine.
And at Penn, both of them found the same thing: room to experiment, room to grow and room to work across the traditional boundaries.
Flaura, for her part, never really considered pursuing a research career anywhere else. "I was starting from scratch" in a new field of research - pediatric trauma, then a relatively unexplored area, she explained. "It's interdisciplinary work, which means building bridges among all the disciplines. Penn has all the disciplines here, and I knew all the people, so the next level was building the bridges.
"For me to go somewhere else, meet the people and build the bridges would have been nearly impossible, where here I had a head start," the assistant professor of pediatrics said.
Ira, too, has been able to cross traditional boundaries and expand his horizons on the job. Over the years, he has risen through Penn's information-technology ranks to the point where he is now executive director of computing for both the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. "There's a lot of overlap between the schools because of these joint institutes" such as the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science, he said. "It's really nice to be able to do things just once for both schools."
His crossing the bureaucratic boundaries has also widened his intellectual horizons. "It's introduced me to all sorts of new people - not just in the cognitive sciences and math, but in film studies, linguistics, all sorts of subjects I never studied when I was in school," he said.
Originally published on October 29, 1998