Ada Lovelace Day: Voices from the Faculty
About Ada Lovelace Day
Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) is an international celebration day of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Founded in 2009 by Suw Charman-Anderson, it is now held every year on the second Tuesday of October.
Born in 1815, Ada Lovelace was a mathematician and writer who has been adopted as a figurehead for an international celebration of the achievements of women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). She is often referred to as the first computer programmer for her work on Babbage's Analytical Engine.
ALD 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.
To mark ALD, we asked some of our staff in the Faculty, to explain why supporting women in STEM matters and why it is important to them.
Voices from the Faculty: Why Ada Lovelace Day matters
Dr Arcadia Woods, Lecturer in Pharmaceutics, Institute of Pharmaceutical Science
During my time at King's, I have been lucky enough to work with inspiring female and male leaders in Pharmacy teaching and research, right at the start of my career. The value of their mentorship inspired me to get involved with outreach to try to provide more role models for young people, especially young women, who are interested in further study and/or a future career in STEM.
I became involved with the STEMNET Ambassador scheme in 2012, and since then have taken part in a wide range of activities. I have been a judge at a primary-school science fair; given career talks to Year 10 and 11 pupils; developed a Nanomedicine Young Scientists Club for Year 9 pupils and even given a presentation about my work to the Brownies! I love the opportunity that STEMNET has given me to talk to young people about working in science, and giving them a flavour of what real research is like. I became a scientist because I wanted to make a difference to the world, and I love solving problems, so I really enjoy sharing my enthusiasm and my experiences with others during STEMNET activities; I always thrilled by aspiring young scientists’ creativity and perceptiveness.
Celebrating the work of women in STEM is vital to ensure that young women feel a sense of belonging in the STEM community. Ada Lovelace Day is a wonderful opportunity to remember the incredible achievements of the female scientists of the past, to celebrate the researchers of the present and to inspire the scientists and engineers of the future. I am looking forward to celebrating it this year!
Dr Magdalena Zarowiecki, Research Associate in the Division of Cancer Studies, Member of Cancer Studies’ Diversity & Inclusion Self-Assessment Team
Ada and I have two things in common. The first is that we see great potential in using computers to change the world. Or as Ada put it more eloquently “The Analytical Engine (the World’s first computer) … is likely to exert an indirect and reciprocal influence on science itself.”. So here I am, a computational biologist fighting cancer with the help of computers that her vision helped building the first prototypes of.
The second thing we have in common is that we believe that women can be ground-breaking scientists. Ada said: “I believe myself to possess a most singular combination of qualities exactly fitted to make me pre-eminently a discoverer of the hidden realities of nature”. Not all of Ada’s contemporaries agreed, but history proved her right. In my work with the Athena SWAN charter for equality at King’s, I have found that the same is true for my female colleagues in the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine; you all have combinations of qualities which make you pre-eminent researchers. So do what Ada did; believe in yourself and your intellect. You belong here, and your contributions matter – you will change the world.
Ada Lovelace's "Diagram for the Computation by the Engine of the Numbers of Bernoulli". The code is a 25-step computer program to be executed on the Analytical Engine. It is remarkably similar to modern computer programming with intermediate variables stored separately, and a loop function allowing the program to do an infinite number of computations without adding more code.
Dr Khuloud Al-Jamal, Reader in Nanomedicine, Institute of Pharmaceutical Science
Dr Khuloud Al-Jamal (second from right), a three-time Wellcome Trust image winner (2014-2016), is a world leader in the area of nanomedicine, and in 2012 she won the prestigious Royal Pharmaceutical Society Science Award for her work in the field. This award has been given annually, for over 40 years, to a pharmaceutical scientist with no more than 10 years’ experience at post-doctoral level, who has a proven record of independent research and published work that shows outstanding promise.
Previous winners of this award have invariably gone on to make significant contributions in the field of pharmaceutical science.
Dr Al-Jamal is the third female to win this award in a 43-year history. She contributed with over 100 ISI-scientific contributions and edited one book. She has supervised over 10 PhD students over the past 7 years, and is eager to turn early-stage researchers, holding passion for research, into top world-class scientists capable of making a difference to the health sector.
Dame Cicely Saunders (1918 – 2005)
Dame Cicely Saunders devoted her life to ensuring that terminally ill people could die with dignity and without pain. She read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford before coming to St Thomas’ to train as a nurse, then as a lady almoner (medical social worker) and finally as a doctor, qualifying from St Thomas’ in 1957. In 1967, she founded the first modern hospice and initiated the worldwide modern hospice movement, and in 2002 she founded the Cicely Saunders Foundation to take forward research and education in this area. In 2004, The Cicely Saunders Foundation and King’s College London announced plans to establish the world’s first research centre for palliative care, [known as] the Cicely Saunders Institute for Palliative Care.
Dame Cicely’s belief that dying is a phenomenon ‘as natural as being born’ was at the heart of a philosophy that sees death as a process that should be life-affirming and free of pain. She transformed the way in which terminally ill patients were looked after. Dame Cicely’s impact can be measured by the 200 hospices for adults and 33 for children in the UK today, and the 8,000 hospices worldwide that have been founded as a result of her work.
Quote extracted from ‘Contributions to biomedicine: a continuing story’ published by King’s College London School of Medicine, 2006.
Copyright photograph by Derek Bayes
Women in Science week at King's
The Faculty of Natural & Mathematical Sciences (NMS) are holding a Women in Science week to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day, which aims to celebrate the women in work in science both within the faculty, the college and beyond. It hopes to highlight the issues faced in STEM subjects surrounding the representation of women, and that gender equality is a relevant and important topic for all by bringing together both staff and students from across the faculty in a number of events.
Find out more about NMS' Women in Science Week.