Ep 14: Sensing chemicals, uncovering discoveries, and wiring Devon for light and power

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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

00:38: Dr Raychelle Burks tells us about the challenges of making field-ready and affordable chemical sensors and how tricky it is to accurately analyse the colours in photographs.

23:45: Why is it so hard to tell the stories of women’s discoveries and inventions?

27:46: Anne Locker, the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Library and Archives Manager, talks about the life and work of Margaret Partridge, an electrical engineer whose company installed electric lighting and power in Devon.

Our interviewees

Dr Raychelle Burks

Dr Raychelle BurksDr Raychelle Burks is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at St. Edward’s University. Her research focuses on the development of detection methods for a wide variety of drugs and explosives.

Beyond the bench and classroom, she is a popular science communicator. She appears on the Science Channel’s Outrageous Acts of Science and in ACS Reactions videos, plus writes a monthly forensic science column for Chemistry World, the magazine of the Royal Society of Chemistry. A passionate STEM outreach advocate, she is the creator and manager of GeekGirlCon’s DIY Science Zone.

Anne Locker

AAnne Locker sqnne Locker is head of the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s  Library and Archives. She has worked extensively on the history of engineering and electrotechnology, and has a particular interest in the history of women in engineering and technology and the introduction of domestic electricity into the modern home.

For more information on the IET’s Library and Archives collections, including the archives of the Women’s Engineering Society, please visit theiet.org/library.

 

Margaret PartridgeIn this episode, Anne talks about pioneering electrical engineer Margaret Partridge (right), who in the early 20th century ran a business installing electric power and lighting to houses and villages in rural Devon. Partridge was a keen supporter of women in engineering, taking on many as apprentices. She also lectured at the Electrical Association for Women, co-authored The Electrical Handbook for Women, and contributed to the EAW’s  journal, The Electrical Age.

Discovery of the month

This month, we explore some of the challenges we’ve faced when researching women’s inventions and discoveries, and why it’s so hard to tell some of these stories.

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 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

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