Ep 19: Entertaining engineering, home security and epigenetics

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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

01:04: Dawn Childs, talks about her work as Group Engineering Director for Merlin Entertainments Group, and why we need more generalist engineers.

28:43: Guest contributor Melanie Phillips explores the development of the first home security system using CCTV by Marie von Brittan Brown in the 1960s.

32:11: Science writer and broadcaster, Dr Kat Arney about cell biologist Professor Dame Amanda Fisher and her pioneering work on HIV, immunology and epigenetics.

Our interviewees

Dawn Childs

Dawn Childs is the Group Engineering Director for Merlin Entertainments Group with responsibility for engineering delivery, standards, practices and processes of the worldwide portfolio of more than 120 theme parks, resorts and attractions. This stretches over 5 continents and encompasses many UK household names such as Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington, Blackpool Tower and Warwick Castle as well as all of the SEALIFEs, LEGOLANDs, Madame Tussaud’s, Dungeons and Eyes around the World.

Prior to Merlin she was at Gatwick Airport as the Business Transformation Leader, leading a series of transformational airline terminal moves and capital projects and previously as the Head of Engineering, responsible for all of the infrastructure and technical services at the airport. She joined Gatwick in 2012 after 23 years as an Engineering Officer in the RAF.

In June 2015, Dawn was presented with the Alastair Graham Bryce Award by the Institution of Mechanical Engineering for her contribution to the promotion of engineering to children, students, young adults and particularly women. In 2014, she was also one of the Barclays Women of Achievement, and was also made Honorary Doctor of Science by Staffordshire University for services to engineering. She has several other awards.

A keen equestrienne; she was the Chairman of RAF Equitation for many years and competed at the Inter-Services level in Show Jumping and Eventing.

Dr Kat Arney

Kat ArneyDr Kat Arney is a science writer and broadcaster whose work has featured in the New Scientist, Wired, The Guardian, the Times Educational Supplement, BBC Radio 4, the Naked Scientists and more. In 2016, she published her critically-acclaimed first book, Herding Hemingway’s Cats, about how our genes work. According to the journal Nature it’s “A witty, clued-up report from the front lines of genetics”, while Radiolab presenter Robert Krulwich describes it as “a gorgeously written, surprisingly gripping introduction to everything we’ve learned about genes”.

Follow her on Twitter @Kat_Arney or find out more about her on her website. You can also watch her 2016 ALD Live! talk on YouTube or at the bottom of this page!

Kat was talking about Professor Dame Amanda Fisher, a cell biologist who produced the first functional clones of HIV, providing the biologically active material essential to studies of gene function in the virus. She then focused on “epigenetics and nuclear reprogramming, particularly in lymphocytes and embryonic stem cells”. Currently, she is working on “how gene expression patterns are inherited as cells divide and how gene expression is changed during mammalian development”.

Discovery of the month

This month, our guest contributor, Melanie Phillips, explores the development of the first home security system using CCTV by Marie von Brittan Brown in the 1960s.

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.


Episode edited by Andrew Marks. Discovery of the month written and recorded by Melanie Phillips.

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