Ep 11: Nanotech, the coffee filter, and how computers search

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Welcome to the Ada Lovelace Day podcast, highlighting the work of women in STEM. Each month, we talk to women from around the STEM world about their careers, as well as talking to women and men, about historic and modern women’s achievements, discoveries, and inventions.

In this episode

00:31: Nanochemist Dr Suze Kundu explains how she’s using nanostructures to extract energy from sunlight.

25:13: Our invention this month is at once both mundane and essential — it’s the coffee filter!

28:12: Dr Sue Black OBE, the founder and CEO of #techmums, talks about the work of computer scientist, Karen Spärck Jones.

Dr Suze KunduOur interviewees

Dr Suze Kundu

Dr Suze Kundu is a teaching fellow at the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering at the University of Surrey. A nanochemist both literally and professionally, Suze’s research focuses on materials that can capture solar energy. Suze is a passionate science communicator, giving regular public lectures at schools, universities and science festivals.

You can follow Suze on Twitter @funsizesuze. Photo: Paul Clarke

Dr Sue Black OBEDr Sue Black OBE

Dr Sue Black OBE is a technology evangelist, digital skills expert and social entrepreneur. A champion for women in computing, she founded BCSWomen, the UK’s first online network for women in tech, and #techmums, a social enterprise which empowers mums and their families through technology. Sue has also published Saving Bletchley Park, about the successful campaign that she led to save Bletchley Park.

You can follow Sue on Twitter @Dr_Black, and can find out more about her on her website.

Melitta BentzDiscovery of the Month

This month, we look at the story of the coffee filter, invented in 1908 by Melitta Bentz who patented her invention and launched her own company.

Competition

This month, we’ve got a signed copy of Dr Helen Czerski’s Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life, to give away. In this, her newest book, Helen uses physics to answer some vexing questions, such as why does it take so long for ketchup to come out of a bottle? And, how do ducks keep their feet warm when they’re walking on ice?

Storm in a TeacupTo take part in this competition, just leave a comment on our Facebook post about this episode of our podcast, and let us know which woman in STEM you most admire! Get your answer in by midnight on 30 April, and we’ll let the winner know via Facebook.

If you want to see Helen talking about her book and her work, then get yourself along to the Scarborough Book Festival at the end of April, the Hay Festival in May, and the British Humanist Association Convention in June. More details on Helen’s website!

Thanks to our sponsor

This podcast is brought to you thanks to the generous support of ARM, our exclusive semiconductor industry sponsor. You can learn more about ARM on their website at ARM.com and you can follow them on Twitter at @ARMHoldings.

If you would like to join ARM as a sponsor of the Ada Lovelace Day Podcast, please email us.

Get in touch!

If you’d like to send us feedback about the show, or if you’d like to take part, please email us. We’re especially interested in hear from men who would like to talk to us about the women in STEM who have influenced them, especially those women who are less well known.

Credits

Episode edited by Andrew Marks.

Our links

Video

Hidden Figures screenwriter Allison Schroeder talks to Helen Keen

For the latest episode of her podcast, Adventures of Space and Tim, Ada Lovelace Day alumna Helen Keen spoke to screenwriter Allison Schroeder about her film Hidden  Figures. The box office smash hit tells the remarkable true story of Katherine G Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three brilliant African-American women whose work at NASA was instrumental in putting John Glenn into orbit.

Keen talks to Schroeder about her favourite scenes, what it was like to mix space-fact and fiction, and the huge impact the film is having, particularly on younger audience members. She also discusses her feelings of optimism for the future of STEM, and also Hollywood. (Read more on the shortage of women in STEM affecting the UK and diversity in Hollywood (PDF).)

Allison Schroeder

Writer Allison Schroeder arrives on the red carpet for the global celebration of the film "Hidden Figures" at the SVA Theatre, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016 in New York. The film is based on the book of the same title, by Margot Lee Shetterly, and chronicles the lives of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson -- African-American women working at NASA as “human computers,” who were critical to the success of John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission in 1962. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Allison Schroeder is a screenwriter in Los Angeles. Hidden Figures draws on her personal history, growing up near NASA in Florida where both her grandparents worked and then she interned herself at NASA for many years.  Schroeder also has a musical pilot in development at Universal Cable and a feature, Agatha, is in development at Paramount. Her other credits include the musical Side Effects, 90210 and Mean Girls 2. She is the Co-Chair of the WGA Women’s Committee and serves on the WGA Diversity Advisory Board.

Both of Schroeder’s grandparents worked at NASA in Cape Canaveral as engineers, first on the Mercury, then Apollo missions.  Her grandmother, who was one of the first women in mission control, stayed on for the shuttle missions as well.

When Schroeder was in 8th grade, she was selected for NASA’s NURTURE program, attending special sessions at Cape Canaveral and learning a variety of things from programming to how the shuttle worked.

She later attended Stanford, majoring in Economics, which was also heavy in maths.  Although she is now devoted to her career as a writer, she still does maths — most recently breaking out the latest WGA statistics on hiring for women and minorities into a variety of user-friendly charts and graphs.

Adventures in Space and Tim

This interview is part of a series of Adventures in Space and Tim podcasts exploring the space industry and inspired by Tim Peake’s Principia mission to the International Space Station. It is supported by the UK Space Agency and the International Centre for Life. Previous guests on include first Briton in space Helen Sharman, former space flight director Libby Jackson, and nanochemist and science communicator Dr Suze Kundu.

Ep 10: Elen Gwynne & Prof Jim Al-Khalili OBE

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Welcome to the Ada Lovelace Day podcast, highlighting the work of women in STEM. Each month, we talk to women from around the STEM world about their careers, as well as talking to women and men, about historic and modern women’s achievements, discoveries, and inventions.

In this episode

00:42: Computer programmer Elen Gwynne talks about how she transitioned from astrophysics to software.

20:50: Discovery (Invention!) of the Month – The Compiler

24:45: Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE talks about the first woman to become a professor of physics in the UK, Professor Daphne Jackson.

Elen GwynneOur interviewees

Elen Gwynne

Elen Gwynne is a software programmer in London. She studied astrophysics at Edinburgh, where she was introduced to computer programming. After a programming based summer placement, she decided to take up programming as a career.

Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE

Jim Al-KhaliliJim Al-Khalili is a theoretical nuclear physicist, author and broadcaster based at the University of Surrey in England. He received his PhD in nuclear reaction theory in 1989 and has published over a hundred research papers in the field. He is a well-known presenter of TV and radio in Britain and his many popular science books have been translated into 26 languages. He is a recipient of the Royal Society of London’s Michael Faraday medal and the Institute of Physics Kelvin Medal. In 2016 he received the inaugural Stephen Hawking medal for science communication. He lives in Southsea in Hampshire with his wife Julie.

Jim has two new books out, Aliens: Science Asks: Is There Anyone Out There? and Quantum Mechanics (A Ladybird Expert Book), and you can listen to him interview a wide variety of women (and men!) in STEM in The Life Scientific on BBC Radio Four.

You can find out more about Jim on his website or Wikipedia, and can follow him at Twitter @jimalkhalili.

If you’d like to to know more about Professor Daphne Jackson you can take a look at her Wikipedia page, and if you’re a woman in STEM thinking about returning, take a look at the Daphne Jackson Trust website.

Discovery of the Month

More of an invention than a discovery, the first compiler was written in 1951 by mathematician and programmer Grace Hopper, who would go on to become a Rear Admiral in the US Navy. She also suggested as early as 1949 that computer programming languages might use English keywords.

You can read an imagined conversation with Hopper on the Libertine website.

Thanks to our sponsor

This podcast is brought to you thanks to the generous support of ARM, our exclusive semiconductor industry sponsor. You can learn more about ARM on their website at ARM.com and you can follow them on Twitter at @ARMHoldings.

If you would like to join ARM as a sponsor of the Ada Lovelace Day Podcast, please email us.

Get in touch!

If you’d like to send us feedback about the show, or if you’d like to take part, please email us. We’re especially interested in hear from men who would like to talk to us about the women in STEM who have influenced them, especially those women who are less well known.

Credits

Episode edited by Andrew Marks.

Our links

Introducing our new line of women in STEM crochet patterns!

Mae_Jemison_1_FF665B08B837FIf you’re a fan of women in STEM and crochet, then you’re going to love our new project! We are creating a series of patterns for amigurumi dolls of women in STEM.

Amigurumi” is a style of doll that has been very popular in Japan for several decades and which is now also popular in the west. Amigurumi dolls tend to be very cute, and are crocheted or knitted.

There are uncountable numbers of patterns available online for cats, dogs, fossils, sharks, cupcakes, trees, blood cells, snails and pretty much everything else you can think of. But, we discovered, there are very few patterns for dolls of women in STEM, an oversight we could not let stand.

Our first pattern features Dr Mae Jemison, who became the first woman of colour in space when she went into orbit on 12 September 1992 on the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Jemison initially worked at the Kennedy Space Centre on the Shuttle’s computer software. Whilst in space on Mission STS-47, she worked on two bone cell experiments, as well as experiments on weightlessness and motion sickness. She worked at Nasa for six years, and spent over 190 hours in space.

Dr Mae Jemison amigurumi

Click on photos to enlarge

Download (PDF)

The doll is very simple to make, using basic techniques like the double crochet (US: single crochet), increase and decrease.

The pattern is free to download, and we are already working on a sequel! If our amigurumi patterns prove popular then we will launch a Kickstarter project to produce a book. If you want to make sure you are amongst the first to hear about our next pattern, or hear about pattern updates, sign up to our newsletter, or follow us on FacebookTwitter or Pinterest.

Why are we doing this?

There are many cultural and structural barriers that reduce the number of girls and women who pursue an education or career in STEM. The idea that STEM subjects are “not for girls” is pervasive. Girls understand gender stereotypes and start thinking about careers from a very young age. The WISE Campaign’s report, Not For People Like Me found that “from age 10 start to self-identify as ‘not STEM’ so start to plan not to study STEM post-16 very early”.

Mae-in-Space-1We know that one-off interventions are ineffective and that we need to focus on long- term structural and cultural changes. This includes initiatives to challenge stereotypes, provide careers information, and create suitable role models, all with the aim of supporting and encouraging girls and women to achieve their full potential in STEM.

This series of crochet patterns aims to introduce girls to STEM role models early to help them understand that they can indeed have a career in STEM.

Licence

Please feel free to share our pattern PDFs, but you may not sell them, nor may you alter them. If you wish to sell dolls made from our patterns, please get in touch with Suw Charman-Anderson first.

 

Dr Mae Jemison

 

Mae-badges-2

 

Mae-badges-1 Mae-2



Ep 9: Prof Elaine Chew & Dr Helen Scales

iTunes | Google Play | RSS (Soundcloud) | Stitcher

Welcome to the Ada Lovelace Day podcast, highlighting the work of women in STEM. Each month, we talk to women from around the STEM world about their careers, as well as talking to women and men, about historic and modern women’s achievements, discoveries, and inventions.

In this episode

00:44: Professor Elaine Chew on using computers to mathematically model music.

27:19: Discovery of the Month – Kevlar

32:06: Dr Helen Scales talks about The Shark Lady, Eugenie Clark.

Our interviewees

Professor Elaine Chew

Prof Elaine ChewElaine Chew is Professor of Digital Media at Queen Mary University of London where she is affiliated with the Centre for Digital Music. A classically trained pianist and operations researcher, her research centers on the mathematical and computational modeling, and scientific visualisation, of structures created in music performance, composition, and listening. She was a 2005 (US) National Science Foundation-nominated honoree of the Presidential Early Career Award For Scientists And Engineers and 2007-2008 recipient of the Edward, Frances, and Shirley B. Daniels Fellowship at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She has the unique honour of having appeared twice in Ignobel presentations: as pianist in the Duct Tape Opera and as scientist-musician in a technical analysis of PDQ Bach.

Music visualisationElaine’s 2014 book, Mathematical and Computational Modeling of Tonality: Theory and Applications, is available from Springer, and the software that she uses, MuSA_RT, is available free from the Mac App Store. You can also read more about Elaine’s work on her research blog, her music blog and her research team blog.

Plus we have links to a couple of her papers, Playing with the edge: Tipping points and the role of tonality and Mathemusical Conversations: Mathematics and Computation in Music Performance and Composition. And you can watch Elaine’s talk from Ada Lovelace Day Live! 2015 at the bottom of this page.

Dr Helen Scales

Helen Scales

Dr Helen Scales is a writer, diver and documentary-maker. She started out as a conservationist, studying endangered fishes and finding ways to protect ocean life. She now searches for stories that connect people and nature, while still spending as much time in the sea as possible. Among her BBC Radio documentaries she’s searched for the perfect wave and explored the enduring dream of living underwater. She also writes regularly for outlets including BBC Focus Magazine, Hakai and BBC Wildlife Magazine.

Helen Scales ane Eugenie ClarkHer latest book Spirals in Time was picked as a book of the year by The Economist, Guardian, Nature and The Times, shortlisted for the Royal Society of Biology book award and picked as a book of the week by BBC Radio 4.

Helen spoke about her ichthyological hero, Eugenie Clark, at Ada Lovelace Day Live 2012 and wrote about the time she met her in A Passion for Science. She’s writing more about Genie in her upcoming book Eye of the Shoal, due out in May 2018.

You can find out more about Helen on her website, or can follow her on Twitter, @helenscales.

Stephanie KwolekDiscovery of the Month

This month, we talked about Kevlar, a superstrong polymer discovered by Stephanie Kwolek in 1964. You can read more about Kwolek’s life and work in our book, A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention, in a chapter written by Dr Suze Kundu.

Competition

This month, we’re giving away a signed copy of Helen Scales’ book, Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells. To enter, Tweet your favourite podcast episode before the end of February and mention @findingada to make sure we see it. We’ll contact the winner via Twitter. (Note that earlier tweets said that the deadlines is 8 Feb, but we’ve extended it!)

Thanks to our sponsor

This podcast is brought to you thanks to the generous support of ARM, our exclusive semiconductor industry sponsor. You can learn more about ARM on their website at ARM.com and you can follow them on Twitter at @ARMHoldings.

If you would like to join ARM as a sponsor of the Ada Lovelace Day Podcast, please email us.

Get in touch!

If you’d like to send us feedback about the show, or if you’d like to take part, please email us. We’re especially interested in hear from men who would like to talk to us about the women in STEM who have influenced them, especially those women who are less well known.

Credits

Episode edited by Andrew Marks.

Our links

Videos