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

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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

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

“It’s our turn to make it blossom”: Aphra Bennett on attending ALD Live! 2016

Guest post by Aphra Bennett (aged 16)

ALD Live

Credit: Paul Clarke

In October, I had the privilege of attending Ada Lovelace Day and I was not disappointed.

This was the third year I have attended Ada Lovelace Day and I have watched it blossom every year, with more speakers, more people and bigger venues. That night, I was unsure what to expect because it seemed like in one year Ada Lovelace Day had blown up out of nowhere. I don’t know whether it was because it was at The IET’s Savoy Place, and I felt quite tiny surrounded by other extremely professional looking adults, or if was the fact that I felt like a mother with a child who finally realises her child has evolved into an adult. Don’t get me wrong – this is exactly what made me happy, the fact that Ada Lovelace Day was finally getting the recognition it rightfully deserved.

The first time I attended Ada Lovelace Day, I was convinced that I had to do some sort of job in STEM. I greatly admired all these women, with all these cool jobs. To some girls my age, a job in STEM is something we keep hearing about, but never actually consider because we just think ‘it’s just not for me’. Of course, when asked why ‘it’s not for you’, we don’t really have a clear definite answer, just ‘Oh, I’m not that good at maths’ or something along those lines that we have unfortunately all heard. Those statements are usually followed by an uncomfortable laughter or silence because deep down we all know that’s not a good enough reason.

Credit: Paul Clarke

Dr Kat Arney. Credit: Paul Clarke

However this isn’t our fault. It’s extremely easy to convince yourself that you are bad at any STEM subjects, because they are presented as these unattainable professions that only few with the correct IQ and brain capacity can participate in, and most of time usually with a male face attached. Of course, we all know that’s complete rubbish, but that’s just not how it’s presented to us. We think just because we weren’t able to come up with E=mc2 in our sleep, ‘it’s just not for me’.  Imagine where we’d be if all scientists with scientific breakthroughs had thought this! Where would we even be? Well, thankfully due to events like the wonderful Ada Lovelace Day, all these silly preconceived notions seem to disappear, and hope is found. Suddenly, you feel like you could be a scientist, an engineer, a technologist, a mathematician. It feels closer to home. And I cannot express how important it is that for just those couple of hours, sitting there listening to and admiring these awe-inspiring women talk about their work fields is enough for girls like me to believe that one day we could be the ones talking on that stage.

What that stood out for me was Dr Kat Arney’s talk about genes and the unlikeliness of them. It made you realise how much a single human being contains inside them.We walk around so oblivious to the fact that we are so intricate on the inside and there are so many things occurring just to make us who we are. This talk for me stood out because it made science more human that it already is. I don’t know about you, but when I was in biology classes, when discussing the human body, I made no connections to actual humans in the sense that I did not think once to myself ‘Oh wow all the people sitting in my class right now are alive and breathing because of what I’m learning today’. We treat the biology of our body like some separate entity from our actual selves. But this talk seemed to connect the biological human body to, I guess, the emotional part of the human body. Another particularly interesting talk was from Dr Bissan Al-Lazikani, about the advancement in cancer research. It felt like a cure for cancer was a close and attainable goal, that could happen in my lifetime, and that in itself was inspiring and uplifting.

Credit: Paul Clarke

Dr Bissan Al-Lazikani. Credit: Paul Clarke

Overall, I can honestly say that I never leave Ada Lovelace Day uninspired. I cannot express how happy I am that this event exists and how much it will increase the chances of women and girls of going into STEM. Because that’s the goal isn’t it? Why would we go further in human history whilst leaving behind half its population? Scratch that – how could we go further in history whilst leaving behind half its population? It sounds stupid if you ask me. We need women and girls in STEM because they are the future. Ada Lovelace imagined a future way beyond her years; now let’s imagine our own, where women and girls are at the forefront. Ada planted the seed, the founder of Ada Lovelace Day watered it, now it’s our turn to make it blossom.

Ep 7: Dr Julia Shaw & Dr Brenna Hassett

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

01:23 Psychological scientist Dr Julia Shaw explains why we shouldn’t trust our own memories, and how knowing that can help us develop a better relationship with our past.

28:16 Bio-archeologist Dr Brenna Hassett explores the lives and works of three pioneering archaeologists who have been instrumental in developing our understanding of prehistoric Turkey, Halet Çambel, Ufuk Esin, and Mihriban Özbaşaran.

Our interviewees

Dr Julia Shaw

Dr Julia ShawDr Julia Shaw is a memory scientist in the Department of Law and Social Sciences at London South Bank University. She is the author of the popular science book The Memory Illusion, which was published in June 2016, in the UK and will soon appear in 13 languages. She is a regular contributor to Scientific American, and her work has been featured in outlets such as the Discovery Channel, BBC, Der Spiegel, Russia Today and The Times.

Besides her teaching and research, she has delivered general business and police training workshops, has given guest lectures at universities around the world, has evaluated offender diversion programs, and works with the UK police to advise on historical sexual and physical abuse cases.

Julia has also written about women in STEM for the Scientific American, in Swapping Princesses and Ponies for Science. You can follow Julia on Twitter at @DrJuliaShaw, and watch her video on memory below or on YouTube. Photo: Boris Breuer

Dr Brenna Hassett

Dr Brenna HassettDr Brenna Hassett is a bioarchaeologist specialising in the archaeology of teeth. Her research examines evidence from growth disruptions locked inside dental enamel to understand patterns of human health in the past, and she has worked in a variety of countries including Egypt, Greece, Turkey, and Thailand.

She is a founding member of the TrowelBlazers collective, which seeks to reset imaginations by bringing the contributions of women to the Earth Sciences to light. Their new Raising Horizons project will promote the work of women in the trowel-based sciences via a photographic and oral history archive (video below).

Her new book Built on Bones: 15,000 Years of Urban Life and Death is out from Bloomsbury Sigma in the UK in February 2017, and in North American April 2017. You can follow Brenna on Twitter at @brennawalks.

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

Supporting women in STEM: Your ideas needed!

Digital ScienceALD Sponsor Digital Science held an event as part of their Ada Lovelace Day celebrations, Championing Success and Avoiding the Echo Chamber, looking at how we can support women in STEM. The event covered various issues, such as women and men working in STEM (and the leaky pipeline), how to encourage people to mentor, finding more role models, the media perception of women in STEM, and finally, how we can move to doing things, rather than just talking about them. There is a teaser video plus all nine talks and the panel discussion on their blog, and a variety of articles and contributions on the issues raised.

In her talk, Dr Suze Kundu suggested that we collectively make a plan to encourage people to do more, and Digital Science have put together an article of what we can each do to help bring about equality. The ideas so far include:

  • not making women feel different for being in STEM
  • using yourself as a role model in talks
  • getting support from men at the top
  • not being afraid to be yourself and embracing femininity (if you want to)
  • encouraging diversity to get rid of stereotypes

We are now asking for people to share their ideas for practical steps we can all take to support women in STEM, and have started a Google document for all your contributions. Please share your thoughts  there have been some excellent responses so far!