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The young female computer scientists following in Ada's footsteps

Thursday 18 April 2019

YOUNG female computer scientists enjoyed an inspirational day motivated by Victorian computing pioneer Ada Lovelace.

More than 200 female undergraduates and postgraduates gathered at the University of Salford for the 2019 Ada Lovelace Colloquium, named after the woman considered the world’s first computer programmer for her ideas that machines could not only calculate but interpret.

The annual event is organised by the BCSWomen from the British Computing Society to support female students who make up just 17% of mathematics and computer science students at UK universities.

BCS Manchester branch chair and host Dr Julian Bass, a senior lecturer in software engineering at the University of Salford said: “Ada Lovelace was performing extraordinary feats of mathematics in an era when most women were kept in their place.

'Need many more'

“Thankfully, today we have many, many women at the cutting edge of computer science, software engineering and IT but we could do with many more.

“It is important we hold events like the Colloquium both to showcase the work of women in the field but also to support and encourage participation by others.”

The prestigious event was opened by Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Marshall and inspirational talks were kicked off by Helen Leigh, author of The Crafty Kid’s Guide to DIY Electronics and inventor of the MINI-MU glove – a gesture controlled coded instrument used by artists including Ariana Grande.

Other speakers included Natalia Miller, a software engineer at BBC Sport at MediaCityUk and Sana Belguith, a lecturer on the Cyber Security programme at the University of Salford.

Google, Amazon, Sci-X AND Digital, Bloomberg, J P Morgan and Northrop Grumman were among the industry partners at the event.

A lively research poster competition featured such topics as ‘Could Computer Science Cure Cancer?’, ‘Deepfakes in the Film Industry’, and‘Can Big Data Save the Planet?’

'Computerised world'

Attendee Ruth Macarthy, a University of Salford PhD student,said: “I love computer science because it is all about problem-solving. Computers are at the heart of our modern world, so it makes sense to want to work with them and understand them.”

Co-organiser Helen Miles from the University of Aberystwyth and BCS Women said: “If you speak to almost anyone here, they will say they have been in a situation where they are the only woman in the room, which is not something anyone enjoys

“And there’s no good reason for that because everyone can do computing, it’s all about whether you’re interested in it.”

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Gareth Hollyman, Senior Press & PR Officer (Science)

0161 295 6895