Ada Lovelace Day - Celebrating women in STEM

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.

Who was Ada Lovelace?

Born in 1815, Ada 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. 

More importantly, Lovelace was the first person to foresee the creative potential of the Engine. She explained how it could do so much more than merely 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 this biography of Lovelace to find out more.

Sidney women in STEM

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

Professor Rebecca Kilner, Fellow in Natural Sciences (Zoology) and a Director of Studies in Natural Sciences at Sidney

Professor Kilner has worked in the Department of Zoology in Cambridge since starting her PhD. After finishing her PhD, she held a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship (sponsored by the Wolfson Foundation) and then a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. In 2005, she was appointed University Lecturer, in 2009, became Reader in Evolutionary Biology, and was promoted to Professor in 2013.

Professor Kilner's research has been featured many times by the University and other media outlets, including Science and the BBC. Most recently, the University has featured her research on neglected baby beetles evolving greater self-reliance.

We asked some Sidney students to let us know what motivated them to study science at Cambridge, and whether they have any plans beyond university.

Maisie Pedder, first year Natural Sciences undergraduate at Sidney

"I really enjoyed my science A levels because I loved using logic to solve problems and doing the experiments to see effects we were learning about for ourselves. A highlight of Chemistry A level was synthesising aspirin after learning the theory behind it, and I always enjoyed using microscopes in Biology and seeing the cell structures for myself. I was encouraged by my school which put on several ‘women in Physics’ talks in which I saw many inspiring women pursuing science careers, and I was lucky enough to spend a week at Great Ormond street labs in Year 12 when they explained lots of new exciting techniques, such as gene therapy, which have the power to transform lives. It made me think that I would love to pursue medical research as a career although my mind may change throughout my degree!"

Fern Deng, first year Natural Sciences undergraduate at Sidney

"My subject is biological natural sciences. I have always been an inquisitive girl and science subjects never failed to fascinate me. My interest aroused when I found out that the reaction between oxalate and potassium hypomanganate was not as simple as the phenomenon told by the teacher in senior high school ‘potassium hypomanganate was decolourised’, the reaction was actually in separate stages. I also found myself activated when I spotted the lines in my textbook ‘…remains unknown so far’. All these problems never failed to make me think, theoretically, about the inner mechanisms behind each phenomenon and potential approaches to find a solution. Gradually, I found myself hard to be satisfied by the classes at school and I always wanted to do something more. My interest took me to read some university textbooks to help me gain a broader and deeper understanding of certain concepts and biological processes. As I continue to learn, I realised that there were still a number of unsolved scientific problems in the world; it furthered my interest and made me want to work even harder to join the group of future scientists, for the benefit of the whole of mankind."

Maura Malpetti, Clinical Neurosicneces PhD student at Sidney

"I am a PhD student in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, supervised by Prof. James Rowe and Prof. John O’Brien. My project focuses on the prognostic value of multimodal neuroimaging techniques and biomarkers in predicting clinical decline in a variety of neurodegenerative diseases. I became fascinated by neuroimaging and neuropathological conditions during both my BSc in Psychology and MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Italy. In those years, I was a volunteer at the university hospital, for an association for people with mental disabilities, and in a nursing home for people with dementia. These experiences made me realise that working on research into neuropathological conditions would be one of my major life goals. I love working in this field not only for the pleasure of scientific discovery, but also for the opportunity to make my own contribution to new outcomes for clinical practice.

Studying at the University of Cambridge has given me an incredible opportunity for professional and personal growth. Cambridge is not only one of the best scientific and academic hubs of the world, but it has also become like a second home for me, where my college, the Cambridge Trust, and the Rowe Lab have made me feel welcome since my arrival. I really enjoy living in this brilliant international community and working in such an excellent research group. In the future, I would like to continue with my research and pursue a career in academia, with the same enthusiasm that I find in myself and the people I work with."

This is an archived news story first posted in October, 2018

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