Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) is an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). Here we meet some Sidney women in STEM, and discover their motivations for studying their subjects.

Who was Ada Lovelace?

Ada Lovelace, born at a time when women were denied the vote and most were restricted from owning property, went on to become a British Mathematician and the first computer programmer in history.

Lovelace collaborated with inventor Charles Babbage on his general purpose computing machine, the Analytical Engine. In 1843, Lovelace published what we would now call a computer program to generate Bernoulli Numbers. Whilst Babbage had written fragments of programs before, Lovelace's was the most complete, most elaborate, and the first published. 

Lovelace was also the first person to foresee the creative potential of the Engine. She explained how it could do so much more than calculate numbers, and could potentially create music and art, given the right programming and inputs. Her vision of computing's possibilities was unmatched by any of her peers and went unrecognised for a century. 

You can read the biography of Lovelace to discover more about her inspiring story. 

Ada Lovelace day aims to increase the profile of women in STEM and, in doing so, create new role models who will encourage more girls into STEM careers and support women already working in STEM.

Sidney women in STEM

Sidney is proud to have a community of women in STEM, including numerous Fellows, undergraduate, and postgraduate students. Here we meet a few from this community and find out more about what they are currently studying, and what motivated them to study STEM at Cambridge.

Dr Ljilana Fruk, Fellow and Director of Studies in Chemical Engineering at Sidney

Ljiljana completed her studies in chemistry at the University of Zagreb and obtained PhD in SERS and biospectroscopy from University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. She was then awarded a Humboldt Fellowship followed by a Marie Curie Fellowship to conduct postdoctoral research in enzyme reconstitution and nanomaterial biofunctionalisation in Prof. C. Niemeyer’s group at the University of Dortmund.

After being group leader at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology for seven years, Ljiljana took on the lectureship in bionanotechnology at the University of Cambridge in 2015 and currently holds a readership in BioNano engineering.

Her research interest is the use of bio and nanoelements to design materials for catalysis and tissue engineering. This involves development of new types of light responsive structures, DNA modification and application beyond genetics as well as protein modification and structuring.

Current Sidney students, Anna and Kasia, let us know below what motivated them to study a STEM subject at Cambridge.

Anna Behrens, first year Natural Sciences undergraduate at Sidney

"Although my family would have definitely described me as the type of toddler to keep asking ‘Why?’ until they had no idea what to answer, I actually only developed a keen interest in science when I was 15 years old.

The fact that I knew so few women in science made me assume it wouldn’t be for me. It was only when my maths teacher in Year 10 convinced me to take further mathematics that I saw what for me is the real beauty of science: describing nature using maths.

My preferred field so far has been biochemistry because it beautifully links the mysteriousness of the biological world with the logical and mathematical rigour of the physical. A lack of this rigour in school lead me to online courses, books, and a week’s work experience at the University of Amsterdam assisting a lab technician and a PhD student. My experience so far has shown me how science utilises both curiosity and creativity to find fascinating new truths."

Kasia Wyczesany, final year Pure Mathematics PhD student at Sidney

“I am a PhD candidate at the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, under the supervision of Prof. Timothy Gowers. I work in asymptotic geometric analysis and convex geometry, which means that I study convex sets in high dimensional spaces and try to understand their structure as well as the relations between them (for example, via volumetric and functional inequalities).

I wanted to study mathematics ever since I was a child. Following that dream, I got a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics from the University of Warsaw. I then pursued a Master's degree from the Technical University of Berlin, where I was part of the Berlin Mathematical School, which joins the mathematics departments of the three major universities in the city.

For my PhD, I was fortunate to be admitted to the University of Cambridge, where I am based now. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be surrounded by some of the best mathematicians out there, along with passionate peers and an inspiring and very active community. Cambridge, and Sidney in particular, have definitely become my home.”

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