Women in STEM advent calendar: Day 1 – Tapputi

This winter, we are celebrating the festive season by honouring 25 amazing women in STEM, some of which you might not know of!

Tapputi

Tapputi

First known chemist
1,200 BCE
Iraq

Babylonian parfumier and chemist Tapputi oversaw the royal court perfumery, creating fragrant substances for medicinal and religious purposes. She had a detailed knowledge of chemistry, especially solvents, as well as processes such as extraction, distillation and cold enfleurage. Her descriptions of her still and the process of distillation are the earliest in human history.

For more about Tapputi, take a look at:

New careers poster: What kind of technologist could I be?

What kind of technologist are you

Click to see a bigger version

We are delighted to be able to finally reveal our latest careers poster, What Kind Of Technologist Could I Be?, created in collaboration with Stack Overflow, the internet’s largest online community for software developers.

Over the last few months, a team at Stack Overflow led by design managers Kristina Lustig and Rennie Abraham have used metadata about their job listings, as well as results from their 2018 Developer Surveys, in order to identify ten broad categories of job in the tech industry. Together with Ada Lovelace Day founder Suw Charman-Anderson, they then crafted descriptions that we hope will inspire girls to consider the wide variety of roles available to them in tech.

The poster aims to explode the idea that the only people who work in tech are programmers, and that traditionally female-coded roles, such as Teacher, Communicator and Facilitator are ‘not really tech jobs’.

The role descriptions are left intentionally general so that students can more easily explore the nuances of different jobs within each category. That also allows teachers, parents and career advisors to talk through the personal attributes that attract students to a particular role type, rather than focus on a narrow set of technical skills which might initially seem intimidating.

“Ada Lovelace is a hero to many at Stack Overflow (we even have a conference room named after her in our NYC office!)” said Lustig. “We were excited to do our small part in supporting Ada Lovelace Day, especially since, as the world’s largest community for developers, we share a passion for making tech more inclusive.”

As with our other careers posters, What Kind Of Technologist Could I Be? will be made available soon as a free download, and as a print-on-demand poster via our shop at RedBubble.

ALD partnering with international universities to develop professional network in ecology

Ada Lovelace Day is teaming up with ecologists from the University of York and DePaul University in Chicago, USA, to run an international ecology workshop and to create a long-lasting and robust professional network amongst participants, who will be drawn predominantly from groups and countries generally underrepresented in STEM.

The collaboration has been awarded a £80,177 grant by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to run the project, which will study fungi essential to soil health as well as promoting inclusivity and the retention of women and minorities in science.

Innovative investigation into crucial fungi

Dr Bala Chaudhary

Dr Bala Chaudhary on a green roof experiment in Chicago, installing a spore trap to measure fungal spore dispersal.

An international workshop in York in the summer of 2019 will bring together ecologists from around the world to design a spore trap to be used in locations across the globe to collect samples and shed some light on the airborne dispersal of mycorrhizal fungi spores. Participants will co-design the trap itself, the data collection methods, and implementation, leading to the development of a dynamic, predictive model of mycorrhizal fungi distribution and dispersal networks.

Mycorrhizal fungi are essential to soil health, playing a major role in soil quality, plants’ nutrient and water uptake, as well as protecting them from pests and pathogens. By investigating the dispersal rates of these spores, we can better understand if and how these fungi spread from area to area – the first step to rebuilding resilience in soils that have degraded due to environmental change, and subsequently strengthening food production and security.

Global network to support women and minorities

With support from universities on five continents, the project will also develop participants’ cross-timezone collaboration and professional networking skills to create a sustainable and truly global community. It will particularly focus on recruiting scientists who are diverse in gender, race, geography and culture with support for those from low and middle income countries.

The project will be led by York’s Dr Thorunn Helgason, Senior Lecturer in Ecology, alongside Dr Pen Holland, Lecturer in Ecology. Project partners will include Dr V Bala Chaudhary, Assistant Professor in Environmental Science and Studies at DePaul University and Suw Charman-Anderson, founder of Ada Lovelace Day, an annual international celebration of the achievements of women in STEM.

Let us know how your indie event went

Every year, Ada Lovelace Day sees dozens of people from around the world organising their own independent events to celebrate, promote and support girls and women in STEM. This year, we have over 115 events, with at least one on every continent so far and more coming in every day.

For the last three years, we have also been putting together End of Year Reports to talk about the work we’ve done over the previous twelve months. This year, we’d very much like to be able to provide our supporters with a clearer picture of how many people attend Ada Lovelace Day events around the world, to get a sense of how far the movement has grown over the last ten years.

To that end, we’d like to ask all event organisers to spend a few minutes giving us a little extra information about your events. If you ran multiple events, we’d be grateful if you could fill in the form once for each event. We will then be able to share the compiled results with you here on this blog and in our report for 2018.

If you have any questions about this form, please email Suw Charman-Anderson.

And finally, thank you so much for being a part of what makes Ada Lovelace Day so special!

Win a copy of Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist!

In celebration of our 10th Ada Lovelace Day we are giving away a copy of Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist, a new account of Ada Lovelace’s mathematical education and achievements by Lovelace scholar and mathematician Ursula Martin, along with co-authors and fellow mathematicians Christopher Hollings and Adrian Rice.

Whilst there are many biographies extant of Ada, Countess of Lovelace, none explore her interest in maths in the same level of detail as Hollings, Martin and Rice, nor do they provide such a fascinating and compelling glimpse into her childhood, education and personality. The authors have been working for some time on digitising and analysing previously unpublished letters to and from Lovelace, and this book is just one result of that project.

Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist is a beautifully written and extraordinarily approachable book. Liberally illustrated with scans of her letters, portraits, and illustrations, we get an insight into Lovelace’s own fascinations and interests, as well as how her education was structured or, indeed, not.

As a girl, Ada was not permitted a formal education, instead being taught by governesses and, later, her mother, Lady Anne Isabella (Annabella) Byron. Whilst this meant that Ada could, to some extent, focus on what interested her the most, the lack of a formal syllabus meant that at times she had to go back to fill in the blanks before she could progress.

Much of Lovelace’s mathematical education came through exchanging letters and sometimes meeting with mathematicians, including Dr William Frend, Mary Somerville and, crucially, eminent mathematician and logician, Augustus de Morgan. By 1841, when she was 25, Lovelace was revisiting algebra so that she could more easily tackle calculus. But she wasn’t content to just do the exercises and move on to the next chapter, she wanted to fully understand the underlying principles and would work on a problem until she had really cracked it.

It is through her letters and her mathematical education that Hollings, Martin and Rice paint a vivid picture of the kind of person Lovelace was, illustrating her determination, tenacity and intelligence. Of course, the culmination of her studies was the writing of Note G, a ‘footnote’ to Lovelace’s translation from French to English of Luigi Menabrea’s paper about Charles Babbage’s computing machine, The Analytical Engine. Note G very famously contains instructions for the calculation of Bernoulli Numbers, widely considered to be the first computer program. For many, though, Lovelace’s crowning achievement was not the program, but her vision of what The Analytical Engine could do, her realisation that if it could manipulate numbers then it could manipulate symbols and might thus be capable of creating music or graphics.

“Lovelace’s paper is an extraordinary accomplishment, probably understood and recognized by very few in its time, yet still perfectly understandable nearly two centuries later. It covers algebra, mathematics, logic and even philosophy: a presentation of the unchanging principles of the general-purpose computer; a comprehensive and detailed account of the so-called ‘first computer program’; and an overview of the practical engineering of data, cards, memory and programming.”

Hollings, Martin and Rice’s accomplishment is to take a maths-heavy subject and make it not just comprehensible to the non-mathematician, but thoroughly enjoyable. Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist’s only flaw is its brevity: It is so well-written that I could easily have read a version double the length.

If you would like to win a copy of Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist, please share a link to this blog post on social media, then leave a comment below with a link to your social media post. Please make sure that the email in your comment profile works, so that we can get hold of you! The competition will close at midnight BST on 8 October, and we will announce the winning prize on Ada Lovelace Day, 9 October. Only open to residents of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. 

And talking of Ada Lovelace Day, don’t forget to get your tickets to our science cabaret event, Ada Lovelace Day Live at The IET in London, and check our worldwide map to see if there’s an indie event on near you!