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.


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.


Episode edited by Andrew Marks.

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