ALD22: Professor Nadine Caron, General and Endocrine Surgeon

Nadine Caron

Professor Nadine Caron

Nadine Caron, born in British Columbia in 1970, is a General and Endocrine surgeon in Canada of First Nations descent (Ojibway). She currently works at Prince George Regional Hospital and also as an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery at University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). She is Co-Director of UBC’s Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health, which she helped to establish.

Caron obtained a BSc in Kinesiology at Simon Fraser University, where she was the top undergraduate student, winning the Shrum Gold Medal. She went on to complete her MD at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine, the first woman of First Nations descent to graduate there, and was also ranked as the top student. Additionally, Caron completed an MA in Public Health at Harvard and a postgraduate fellowship on endocrine surgical oncology at the University of California. She is also the recipient a Doctorate of Laws and an honorary degree.

She is an advocate for improving quality healthcare available to First Nations communities, and leads the Northern Biobank Project, which investigates genetic factors in diseases from tissue samples from rural and remote people in this community. She was also appointed as the First Nations Health Authority Chair (FNHA) in Cancer and Wellness to ensure that Indigenous people have better outcomes from cancer treatment.

Caron has been recognised with several awards for her work in diversity and inclusion, including the Canadian Cancer Society’s Inclusive Excellence Prize and the Dr Thomas Dignan Indigenous Health Award.

Further Reading

ALD22: Mary Golda Ross, Aerospace Engineer

Mary Golda Ross

Mary Golda Ross

Mary Golda Ross (1908-2008) was the first female engineer to work at the Lockheed Corporation, as well as the first female Native American engineer.

As a child, she lived with her grandparents so she could go to school, after which she attended Northeastern State Teachers’ College where she earned a degree in Maths. A decade later, she attended Colorado State Teachers College to complete her Masters degree in maths, where she additionally took several astronomy modules. During the Great Depression, she worked in schools as a maths and science teacher before applying to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), to work as a statistical clerk. She then became an advisor to girls at Santa Fe Indian School.

During World War II, her father advised Golda Ross to find work in California, where she was hired by Lockheed to work as a mathematician. She started working on some design problems with the P-38 Lightning fighter plane, to ensure that it could withstand its high speed. Lockheed were pleased with her work and sent her to UCLA so she could attain professional engineering qualifications for aeronautics and missiles. Despite many companies letting go of their female staff once the war had finished, Golda Ross was kept on at Lockheed, and was invited to join a top-secret project, Skunk Works, the only female mathematician to take part.

In Skunk Works, she worked on space travel designs and operational designs, including the Agena-B spacecraft, which later was used for the Apollo missions. Additionally, she worked ideas on potential flights to Mars and Venus, and wrote the NASA Planetary Flight Handbook III. Much of this work is still classified. Towards the end of her career, she worked on the Polaris re-entry vehicle, and the missiles, Poseidon and Trident.

Golda Ross was a strong supporter of young women and Native Americans in engineering, including American Indians in Science and Engineering Society and the Council of Energy Resource Tribes, and was also a member of the Society of Women Engineers. She participated in a parade of Native Americans at the National Museum of the American Indian, wearing a traditional Cherokee dress, and bequeathed $400,000 to the museum in her will. She died in 2008 and in 2022 was honoured with a statue in celebration of International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Further Reading

ALD22 Books: The Complete Guide to Absolutely Everything, Dr Hannah Fry and Dr Adam Rutherford

The Complete Guide to Absolutely Everything: Adventures in Math and Science, Dr Hannah Fry and Dr Adam Rutherford

Despite our clever linguistic abilities, humans are spectacularly ill-equipped to comprehend what’s happening in the universe. Our senses and intuition routinely mislead us. The Complete Guide to Absolutely Everything (Abridged) tells the story of how we came to suppress our monkey minds and perceive the true nature of reality. Written with wit and humuor, this brief book tells the story of science — tales of fumbles and missteps, errors and egos, hard work, accidents, and some really bad decisions — all of which have created the sum total of human knowledge.

Mathematician Hannah Fry and geneticist Adam Rutherford guide readers through time and space, through our bodies and brains, showing how emotions shape our view of reality, how our minds tell us lies, and why a mostly bald and curious ape decided to begin poking at the fabric of the universe.

Rutherford and Fry shine as science sleuths, wrestling with some truly head-scratching questions: Where did time come from? Do we have free will? Does my dog love me? Hilarious sidebars present memorable scientific oddities: for example, hypnotized snails, human-sized ants, and the average time it takes most animals to evacuate their bladders. (A surprisingly consistent twenty-one seconds, if you must know.)

Both rigorous and playful, The Complete Guide to Absolutely Everything (Abridged) is a celebration of the weirdness of the cosmos, the strangeness of humans, and the joys and follies of scientific discovery.

Order the book on here and your purchase will support a local independent bookshop of your choice!

About the Authors

Dr Hannah Fry is a Professor in the Mathematics of Cities at UCL, and honorary fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). She is a best-selling author, having written The Mathematics of Love: Patterns, Proofs, and the Search for the Ultimate Equation, The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus (co-authored with Thomas Oléron Evans) and Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms. She is also an award-winning science presenter and recipient of UCL Provost’s Public Engager of the Year in 2013, the Christopher Zeeman Medal in 2018 and the Asimov Prize in 2020.

Hannah regularly features on television, having recently appeared as a panellist on Have I Got News For You on BBC One, and has presented many documentaries on BBC Two and Four, including How to Find Love Online, Contagion! The BBC Four Pandemic, The Great British Intelligence Test, Making Sense of Cancer with Hannah Fry and Unvaccinated. She also co-hosts The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry on BBC Radio 4.

You can follow her work here:

Twitter: @fryrsquared
Instagram: @fryrsquared

Dr Adam Rutherford is a scientist, writer and broadcaster, and lecturer in Biology and Society at UCL. He is a best-selling author, having written Creation: The Origin of Life / The Future of Life (2014), A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Stories in Our Genes (2016), Genetics (2018), The Book of Humans: The Story of How We Became Us (2018), Humanimal: How Homo sapiens Became Nature’s Most Paradoxical Creature—A New Evolutionary History (2019), How to Argue with a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality (2020) and Control: The Dark History and Troubling Present of Eugenics (2022). 

He has written and presented numerous documentaries for BBC television including Playing God, The Gene Code, Science Betrayed and The Cell. He also hosts BBC Radio 4’s flagship weekly science programme Inside Science, and co-presents The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry.

You can follow his work here:

Twitter: @adamrutherford

ALD22: Dr Lillian Dyck, Neuroscientist and Psychiatrist

Dr Lillian Dyck

Dr Lillian Eva Dyck is an Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Saskatchewan and former Canadian senator (retired). She was one of the first Aboriginal women in Canada to achieve an academic scientific career, as well as the first to be a senator. Dyck is both of Chinese Canadian and Cree Gordon First Nation heritage.

Dyck’s love of science began with her chemistry teacher, who encouraged her to pursue the subject. She attended the University of Saskatchewan where she obtained her undergraduate and masters degrees in biochemistry. After time spent working in jobs in horticulture and in biochemistry labs, she became interested in biological psychiatry, and returned to the University of Saskatchewan to pursue a PhD.

Dyck began to work as a neuroscientist at the University of Saskatchewan, eventually reaching full professor in the Neuropsychiatry Research Unit. Initially, she researched the biochemistry of alcoholism, because she was aware of racist myths about alcoholism amongst Indigenous people and wanted to challenge them. Her other work investigated potential drugs, exploring their mechanisms of action, in order to find out which were most appropriate for neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. She also wrote about the uses of Indigenous medicine in treating disease, in her paper An Analysis of Western, Feminist and Aboriginal Science Using the Medicine Wheel of the Plains Indians.

She received many awards for her work, including an Indspire, formerly National Aboriginal Achievement Award, for Science & Technology, a YWCA Woman of Distinction Award for Science, Technology & the Environment, and a YWCA Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2017, Cree playwright Kenneth T. Williams wrote a play about Dyck called Café Daughter.

Following her research career, Dyck was invited to join the Canadian Senate by the Prime Minister in 2005, where she continued advocating for Indigenous women and other minority groups, serving as Deputy Chair and Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples and as a member of the Progressive Senate Group. She was awarded the Order of Canada in 2021 for her work.

Further Reading

ALD22: Dr Valerie Thomas, Inventor and NASA Scientist

Valerie Thomas

Dr Valerie Thomas

Dr Valerie Thomas, born in 1943, is an African American inventor and NASA scientist, famous for her ‘illusion transmitter’ and work as a computer scientist at NASA. She received many awards for her work and her activism, including an Award of Merit from the Goddard Space Flight Center and the NASA Equal Opportunity Medal.

While technology was an interest of hers as a child, she received little encouragement to pursue this or other science fields. This changed when she went to Morgan State University, where she majored in physics, one of only two women to do so.

After finishing her degree, she began to work on data analysis at NASA as a mathematician and taught herself how to use Fortran. She began her career working on real-time computer data systems that were used in satellite operations control centres.

During the 1970s, she worked on Landsat, becoming team leader for the Large Area Crop Inventory Experiment, an ambitious project which used satellites to predict worldwide wheat yield. She was also responsible for the development of the image processing system.

In 1976, Thomas was at an exhibition where she saw an illusion of a lightbulb that was shining, despite having been removed from its socket. She began designing an optical device that used concave mirrors to create such illusions and in 1980, she patented her illusion transmitter. The design is still in use at NASA and has also become more widely used in other fields such as surgery and 3D video.

Thomas became the Computer Facility manager at the Space Science Data Operations Office at NASA, and was responsible for reorganising and updating the facility. She then did the same at the Space Physics Analysis Network (SPAN), growing the number of computer nodes from 100 to 2,700 worldwide with the aim of improving scientific collaboration. Whilst at SPAN, Thomas worked on projects studying the ozone layer, Halley’s Comet and Voyager.

Outside of her scientific work, Valerie is an enthusiastic supporter of young people, especially girls interested in STEM. She was a mentor for the National Technical Association (NTA), Goddard Space Flight Center and Science, Mathematics, Aerospace, Research, and Technology, Inc (S.M.A.R.T).

She retired from NASA in 1995, but continues with her mentorship activities, inspiring the next generation.

Further Reading