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

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

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

00:42: 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

Ep 9: Prof Elaine Chew & Dr Helen Scales

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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

00:44: 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

Ep 8: Dr Rae Robertson-Anderson & Dr Thorunn Helgason

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

01:10: Dr Rae Robertson-Anderson talks about biological soft matter and biomaterials.

23:12: Ecologist Dr Thorunn Helgason talks about Barbara Mosse and how women’s contributions to STEM are overlooked.

Our interviewees

Dr Rae Robertson-Anderson

Dr Rae Robertson-AndersonDr Rae Robertson-Anderson is Associate Professor, Chair of Physics and Biophysics, and program director for the undergraduate biophysics program at University of San Diego. She has been a member of the faculty since 2009. Rae received her BS in Physics from Georgetown University in 2003, and her PhD in Physics from UCSD in 2007. She completed her postdoctoral research training in the Molecular Biology department at The Scripps Research Institute. Her PhD and postdoctoral research were funded by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and NIH postdoctoral training fellowship.

Since her initial appointment at USD, Rae has received several prestigious research and education grants including an NSF CAREER Award and Air Force Young Investigator Award for her soft matter biophysical research and development of the undergraduate Biophysics program at USD. She has also been named a Research Corporation Cottrell Scholar and Scialog Fellow, and serves on the advisory panel for the Murdock Charitable Trust science programs and the American Physical Society soft matter topical group.

You can find out more about Rae and her team’s work on the University of San Diego’s website.

Dr Thorunn Helgason

Dr Thorunn HelgasonDr Thorunn Helgason is a senior lecturer in ecology at the University of York, UK. She has worked for many years in research focussed on understanding how microbes build healthy soils, and how we can use this knowledge in crop production and habitat conservation. As a higher education professional, she has worked towards widening participation in STEM subjects at undergraduate and postgraduate level, and in public engagement, bringing science into the wider community.

You can follow Thorunn on Twitter, @luehea or read more about her work on the University of York 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