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.


Episode edited by Andrew Marks.

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