Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico
International Women's Day Hero image ;

International Women's Day 2023: Three female role models using technology to improve society

This year, International Women's Day seeks to celebrate women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education. Below, we have highlighted three inspirational women based at the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine who are using technology to improve society.

IWD thumbnail

Using technology to challenge yourself

Why are yawns contagious? How has online dating changed the game? What are the health benefits of probiotics?

These are just a few of the questions Dr Bahijja Raimi-Abraham (Lecturer in Pharmaceutics) grapples with in her podcast, The Monday Science podcast. The podcast offers weekly episodes using a research-led approach to explore topics related to science, health and tech. On a more casual level, Dr Bahijja uses TikTok and Instagram to offer a rare insight into the day-to-day life of an academic and grapple with less essential questions, such as 'Are USB sticks considered uncool by Gen Z undergrad students?'. All this, while also leading her research group, The Raimi-Abraham Group.

Monday Science Podcast

Dr Bahijja realised the joy of science communication on the set of the James Bond film, Skyfall. A passion for acting as well as science, she had been cast as an extra in the film while a PhD student. Between takes, she was constantly quizzed by other actors about the progress of her thesis, and she loved the opportunity to describe what she was doing.

From there, she gave a series of presentations in schools and was even invited to give a Tedx talk, which was titled ‘Becoming an independent researcher’. However, the momentum she was building took a knock during the early days of the pandemic when Dr Bahijja became very sick with Covid. Her recovery was slow, and it was on her birthday when – finally back at full health – she promised herself she would no longer allow fear to hold her back.

I’m nervous and shy when it comes to public facing things. I might seem confident, but that’s because I talk a lot when I’m nervous. On that birthday, I challenged myself to put myself out of my comfort zone every single day.”– Dr Bahijja Raimi-Abraham

Misinformation exploded across social media during the pandemic, and Dr Bahijja responded by creating TikTok videos challenging the fake news with research and science-backed evidence. It was at this point she launched the Monday Science podcast, using research as a springboard to explore topics such as why we find true crime relaxing and the rise in ADHD diagnoses. She also interviews other academics on their specialist subjects – most recently focusing on the theme, ‘Love in the Digital Age’.

Public engagement is a core interest of Dr Bahijja’s, and she also thinks it’s important to give back. As for what the future holds? She thinks a Netflix show would be nice.

Developing an app to provide mental health support for UK’s Muslim population

Nawal presenting

Nawal Yousaf is the founder and brains behind Fitra Health – an app offering clinical and faith-based mental health support for the UK Muslim community. Although the app is still under development – with a prototype expected to be ready soon – it has already drawn the attention of experts across business and social entrepreneurship, winning the King’s Idea Factory competition alongside a £3,000 funding boost.

Nawal presenting portrait

A fourth-year medical student, Nawal was taught the different ways mental health manifests across different cultures and religion as part of the cultural psychiatry module. She became fascinated by the topic and continued her research in it long after the module had finished. She learned that 1 in 5 UK Muslims have had some experience of mental health disorders, and 80-90% said they would turn to religious-based activities to help as a first priority. As a result, many psychiatrists across the UK and abroad have incorporated religious-based activities into a programme of support, alongside traditional clinical interventions such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Behavioural Activation.

Over the last few years, an abundance of apps focusing on mental health guidance and tools have sprung up. However, Nawal noticed a gap in the market with care specifically focusing on the Muslim community and their unique needs.

Noticing a gap in the market, she began designing and creating content for the app with the help of psychiatrist Dr Ahmed Hankir (Specialist Registrar in General Adult Psychiatry at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust). Together, they have developed a multi-week programme based on evidence-based therapeutic and faith-based approaches to treat symptoms of depression. Faith is incorporated into the app by offering example scenarios featuring Muslim characters or role models from Islam. Activities could include reciting certain prayers, quotes or stories from religious texts.

The next steps involve developing a prototype of the app, trialing it, and ensuring it meets health regulatory requirements.

How does Nawal see the app evolving over the next few years?

Long term, we want to be the go-to mental health app for the huge Muslim population. We’re creating a programme for depression currently, but we also want to be able to offer support for those dealing with anxiety, sleep insomnia, eating issues, and more.” – Nawal Yousaf

The power of social media for science communication

From skewering bad science in movies to creating a ‘lab ASMR’ soundtrack, Dr Ella-Louise Hubber has seen extraordinary success by making fun of the quirks of being a scientist.

Ella was undertaking a PhD at King’s in diabetes research when she became interested in performing at Bright Club – a regular event platforming researchers who want to try their hand at stand-up comedy. She created her TikTok account to practice her comedy chops, and never imagined that in just a few years she would end up with 110,000 followers.

Ella TikTok portrait 2

 At the start, much of her content featured sketches riffing on some of the unusual elements of working in a lab. One video, where Ella highlights research papers that contain funny puns in the title, racked up 1.2 million views. Another describes how esteemed scientist Sir Andre Geim won the Ig Nobel Prize - a satirical science award - for levitating live frogs with magnets. He then won the actual Nobel Prize a decade later.

“I started livestreaming my experiments on Twitch, and got something like 500 people watching me do a qPCR. You wouldn’t think that many people would find it interesting, but it’s a world that’s closed off to a lot of people.”

Her channel grew and Ella shifted her focus from only comedy to debunking false science claims she saw all over TikTok. Impressed by her ability to combine humour with nuanced science communication, a famous YouTube personality named Hank Green invited her to write scripts for his channel, SciShow – a side job she continues to this day. With a group of friends, she set up a long-form podcast named Let’s Learn Everything, where each bi-weekly episode earns an average of 50,000 listens.

Ella TikTok portrait

 Ella saw an opening for a Science Content Producer role at the BBC, and thanks to her now wide-ranging portfolio, was successful in her application. She joins the broadcaster in two months’ time, where she will be researching topics, writing scripts, booking guests and developing a story from start to finish.

Those wishing to become professional science communicators should experiment with as many channels as possible to see what works, Ella suggests.

There’s no prescribed path. I was basically training myself to become this person, and it was only through doing a lot of that I developed skills like confident speaking. If you want to write you just need to write. It doesn’t matter at the start if you’re being paid for it.”– Dr Ella-Louise Hubber

In this story

Bahijja  Raimi-Abraham

Bahijja Raimi-Abraham

Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutics

Latest news