Ep 13: Flexible solar cells, how a piano inspired wifi, and the inspirational role of science fiction

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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

00:46: Dr Jess Wade explains plastic electronics and how they are revolutionising solar power generation, amongst other things.

30:45: We explore the invention of frequency hopping, a technique for protecting a radio signal by rapidly changing which frequency it is transmitted on, spreading the signal out over a wide band of the radio spectrum.

34:17: Author Robin Sloan talks about the work of Ann Leckie, her award winning book, Ancillary Justice, and how fiction inspires science.

Our interviewees

Dr Jess Wade

Dr Jess WadeDr Jess Wade is a post doctoral researcher in the Department of Physics and Centre for Plastic Electronics at Imperial College London focused on light emitting didoes. She is also a member of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Young Women’s Board and is working with the young members board of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) to design a PDF resource for schools outlining how awesome jobs in engineering are (the theme is ‘engineer a better world’).

Jess has also worked with the Institute of Physics on their Improving Gender Balance project, and with a new EU-collaboration led by the Association of Science Centres called ‘Hypatia’ looking at gender balance in educational initiatives across the EU. She is involved with the Further Maths Support Network and the Stimulating Physics Network CPD, both of which focus on helping teachers, and the Turinglab, which offers free coding classes to girls in years 7 to 10. She has done fundraising for the Institute for Research in Schools, whose Amazing Atmosphere project, funded by the UK Space Agency, launched recently at the Eden Project.

Jess is planning a series of wikithons across the country for summer 2017, adding the stories of inspiring women in chemistry that have been lost to old journals and archives. If you’d like to take part, do get in touch with her.

You can read more about the work of the Imperial plastics electronics team on their website, and find out more about Jess at Making Physics Fun. And you can follow her on Twitter @jesswade.

Robin SloanRobin Sloan

Robin Sloan is an American best-selling author whose first novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, hit the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Best Seller list and the NPR Hardcover Fiction Bestseller List in 2012.

Between 2002 and 2012, Robin worked at Poynter, Current TV, and Twitter, and says that his job “had something to do with figuring out the future of media”. He is “interested in content (words, pictures, ideas) who also experiments with new formats, new tools, and new technology”.

Ann LeckieYou can find out more about Robin on his website, and can follow him on Twitter @robinsloan.

Robin was talking about science fiction author Ann Leckie, whose first novel, Ancillary Justice, won the Hugo, Nebula, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. She then went on to write two sequels to Ancillary Justice: Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy. You can follow her on Twitter @ann_leckie.

 

Discovery of the month

Hedy LamarrThis month, we explore the invention of frequency hopping, a technique for protecting a radio signal by rapidly changing which frequency it is transmitted on, spreading the signal out over a wide band of the radio spectrum. Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr and her collaborator avante-garde musician George Antheil were awarded a patent for their “Secret Communications System” in 1942, and it now underpins many communications technologies.

 

Competition winner

Storm in a TeacupIn March, we had 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?

We are happy to announce that the very lucky winner is Kirsty Burridge! Congratulations Kirsty!

If you want to see Helen talking about her book and her work, then get yourself along to the Hay Festival on 27 May, Cheltenham Science Festival on 7 June, or the British Humanist Association Convention on 10 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.

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

Ep 12: What our voices say about us, an explosive spot test, and the rewards of persistence

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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

00:34: Neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott explains how our voices tell others more about us than we might realise!

28:35: We find out more about Dr Betty Harris’s spot test for the explosive TATB, used now in airports and for cleaning up the environment.

32:19: Science writer Simon Singh tells us the story of two incredible women, French mathematician Sophie Germain and American astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt.

Our interviewees

Professor Sophie Scott

Professor Sophie ScottProf Sophie Scott is a cognitive neuroscientist as University College London who studies the neurobiology of speech perception, including the evolution of speech, the difference between intelligibility and comprehension, and profiles of recovery in aphasia (where a patient has difficulty understanding or producing speech). She also works on dyslexia and the processing of emotional information in the voice, but is most well known for her work on laughter.

Sophie’s Ada Lovelace Day Live 2013 talk on laughter can be watched on YouTube and at the bottom of this page. Her TED talk has been viewed 2.5 million times, and she gave an hour-long lecture on the subject in 2015 lecture for The Physiological Society.

Sophie has more information about her research and publications on her website, and you can follow her on Twitter @sophiescott.

Simon Singh

Simon SinghSimon Singh is a science writer who lives in London. After completing a PhD in particle physics at the University of Cambridge and CERN, he joined the BBC and won a BAFTA for his documentary about Fermat’s Last Theorem. He has since written four bestselling science books (and co-authored one moderate-seller), including Fermat’s Last Theorem, the first book about mathematics to become a No.1 bestseller. His other books are The Code Book, Big Bang, Trick or Treatment? and The Simpsons & Their Mathematical Secrets.

He is also founder of GOOD THINKING, a charity that promotes science and challenges pseudoscience, and one its main ongoing projects aims to stretch strong mathematicians in secondary schools from age eleven upwards. Between 2008 and 2013, after being sued for libel, Simon was a leading figure in the libel reform movement that campaigned for free speech, and which resulted in the Defamation Act 2013.

You can find out more about Simon on his website, and can follow him on Twitter @SLSingh.

Dr Betty HarrisDiscovery of the month

This month we look at the invention of a spot test for the explosive TATB by Dr Betty Harris, which not only helps us to clean up the environment, but is also used to check for explosives at airport security.

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

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

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

00:31: 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