In celebration of International Women’s Day (8th March), and this year’s theme ‘Pledge for Parity’, we are exploring how to help women and girls achieve their ambitions.
As part of this we wanted to revisit the people in our lives that inspired us into science and whose achievements keep us motivated to reach our own vision of empowering communities to thrive.
You can read below about the women that have inspired the QuantuMDx team. These women have been chosen because they haven’t been afraid to challenge or lead, be game-changers, make life better for others or push the boundaries of what can be accomplished.
PATRICIA BATH, OPHTHALMOLOGIST AND INVENTOR.
Nominated by Sam Bhatt, Research Scientist – Chemistry
I’d like to nominate Patricia Bath, for her inspiring work on the treatment of cataracts, for which she holds four related patents; and actually she was the first African American woman to hold a patent in the medical device sector.
Her device, the Laserphaco Probe, quickly and painlessly dissolves cataracts with a laser and is now used internationally to treat the disease – how cool is that?! Aside from that she’s also served as professor of Ophthalmology in multiple institutions, lectured internationally and authored over a 100 papers. She’s a big humanitarian and her efforts have drastically improved the conditions of those living with cataracts in the developing nations.
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MARIE CURIE, RESEARCHER
Nominated by Kerry Robertson, Business Services Coordinator
I’d like to nominate Marie Curie. She has special meaning to me because in 2012 my step-mum, a Marie Curie bank Nurse for palliative care, was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. To show my support I ran the Great North Run for Marie Curie, raising just over £1500 to support the amazing work the nurses do.
The lady herself was a pioneer in the world of science for women, winning not one but two Nobel prizes in physics and chemistry and became the first woman to do so. She was the first female scientist to be recognised for her work independent of a man and the Nobel prize committee (all men) were not going to honour her but luckily there was a man on the committee who championed women in the science. She discovered the process of radiotherapy which has helped save many lives from cancer over the years and was leading in the field of Chemistry discovering new elements. She went on to have two daughters of her own who both dedicated their lives to science – it doesn’t get much more inspiring than that!
I also think our own QuantuMDx women scientists are awesome too, they are very dedicated to the humanitarian cause which is the kind of role models we need in the world right now.
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HYPATIA OF ALEXANDRIA, MATHEMATICIAN, GEOMETER AND ASTRONOMER
Nominated by Jonathan Salmon, Research Manager
Hypatia of Alexandria taught conic sections and Diophantine equations. She was heralded as the first notable women mathematician until her untimely demise in 415AD.
Her work in geometry influenced my PhD in Geometric Reasoning for Computer Aided Machining, and she lived between (about) 350-415AD, which is even before Microsoft Windows!
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BEATRIX POTTER, AUTHOR, ILLUSTRATOR AND SCIENTIST
Nominated by Claire Robinson, PA to the Directors
I would like to celebrate the work of Beatrix Potter, a familiar name in children’s literature and a notable women in science too! Her well-loved stories about Peter Rabbit and other fictional characters served as an outlet for her frustration as she tried to break into a career in science.
Her drawings detailed how lichens, a common type of fungi found on rocks and trees, were actually two different organisms that lived together, as a union between an algae and a fungus.
She was the first Briton to recognise this and was also amongst the first few in the world who did. She submitted her study “On the Germination of the Spores of Agaricineae” but wasn’t allowed to read it herself because only men were invited to the Linnean Society meetings.
Beatrix Potter died of bronchitis in 1943 – upon her death, the secret diary she kept as a child was also released, telling a story of frustration for not being given the chance to pursue her passion for science early on. That said, eventually scientists began to appreciate Potter’s contributions, and the Linnean Society held a meeting in her honour 100 years after she submitted her paper.
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ADA LOVELACE, MATHEMATICIAN
Nominated by Chris Howell, Senior Research Scientist – Chemistry
Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) aka: Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace
Ada Lovelace was Lord Byron’s only child. Her mother made her study mathematics from birth, which eventually got her into the social circle of Charles Babbage. Even in his day, Babbage was an outlandish mad-scientist type, and he had formulated a design for some outrageous futuristic machine he called an “analytical engine.” Today, we call it a “computer.” By the way, this was 1837.
When someone wrote an article about Babbage’s machine in French, Babbage wanted it translated so he could read what other people were saying about him. Ada translated it for him, but then she just kept on writing until she’d produced a paper three times the length of the original. What she had done was formulate a way that the analytical engine might one day be used to produce music, graphics and advanced calculations. She stopped just short of coding Grand Theft Horse Carriage and calling it a day.
That is why Ada Lovelace is my inspiring women on International Women’s Day, she was the first computer programmer, before that whole computer thing was invented.
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DR FRANCES KATHLEEN OLDHAM KELSEY, CANADIAN PHARMACOLOGIST AND PHYSICIAN.
Nominated by the QuantuMDx Quality Team
As a reviewer for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr Frances Kelsey refused to authorise thalidomide for market because she had concerns about the drug’s safety. Her concerns were justified when it was shown that thalidomide caused serious birth defects. Kelsey’s career intersected with the passage of laws strengthening FDA oversight of pharmaceuticals.
Kelsey was the second woman to be awarded the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by President John F. Kennedy.
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ADA LOVELACE, MATHEMATICIAN & HANNAH FRY, MATHEMATICS LECTURER
Nominated by James Mackenzie, Senior Software Engineer
I want to go back quite far in time and nominate Ada Lovelace.
Her work, primarily focussed on Charles Babbage’s design of an ‘Analytical Engine’, a general purpose computing device, was pivotal in laying the foundations of computing and computer science, more than 100 years before the invention of the transistor.
Her vision of the capability and applications of the Analytical Engine considerably outstripped Babbage’s and she arguably wrote the first ever computer program – an algorithm to compute Bernoulli numbers.
Beyond this though, Lovelace’s thinking was along the lines of mechanising thought, and she had some rigorous ideas on whether a machine could be intelligent – but more importantly – how you might _tell_ it was intelligent.
An amazing and visionary thinker in both digital computation and artificial intelligence, at a time when these very concepts were at an embryonic stage.
Also, I think worthy of mention – and one of the reasons I am talking about Ada Lovelace – is Dr Hannah Fry (Mathematics Lecturer at UCL).
She recently presented a documentary on the BBC covering Lovelace’s life, struggles and achievements.
Fry is an engaging public speaker and does much to communicate and promote maths (and some very interesting applications of it) to the general public.
She is also, as she puts it, an all-round bad ass. I have to agree. http://www.hannahfry.co.uk/
DR HELEN SHARMAN, ASTRONAUT, CHEMIST
Nominated by Martin Forbes, Junior Research Scientist – Assay
The first Briton in space and the first woman to visit the Mir Space station. Sharman was only 27 when she went to space. She was selected from 13,000 applicants and underwent extreme physical training through the selection process. She is a PhD of Chemistry and has a number of honorary degrees. All of which are incredible achievements!
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KIRSTEN FLETCHER, PHYSICS TEACHER
Nominated by Lucy Harvey, Business Development and Marketing Officer
I always enjoyed Science during school and I knew I wanted to follow this through for my A-Levels but I definitely hadn’t prepared myself for what studying for an A-Level in Physics actually meant!
Miss Fletcher was my A-Level physics teacher and was one of the few people on this planet that could make topics like quantum physics fun. We were timetabled with triple physics lessons one term, which sound like most people’s worst nightmares, but they would fly by as we became immersed in a world of equations, particles and relativity.
She was fantastic at bringing a subject to life and engaging with her students, tirelessly spending time with us until we each understood the topic, and when all else failed she would come up with some seriously cool experiments which usually involved large explosions.
She was definitely one of the most engaging and inspiring people I was ever taught by, which is exactly what I think we should be celebrating as part of International Women’s Day.
DR JULIE WHITEHOUSE, PHYTOTHERAPIST
Nominated by Sam Whitehouse, Chief Operating Officer
Dr Julie Whitehouse (Mum, as she will be called from here on), has had a long career in science and has inspired me throughout my professional life with her need for understanding and discovery. She was born in Antrim, Co Antrim and studied in Belfast before taking her PhD in Genetics in Birmingham, UK in the 1960’s.
When we were all growing up in London, Mum taught Biology A-level at South Thames and at the same time studied Phytotherapy. She was very good at it, taking a scientific approach to the extraction and manipulation of herbal remedies and dispensing in a clinical manner. For her, the real benefit of Phytotherapy was being able to diagnose and treat the patient as a whole rather than just a disease. But the most inspiring part about Mum was not only raising four children, teaching in the evenings, learning a new degree, but also the application of it to her own small business, and her love of treating patients. Having witnessed the joy she created in some of her patients, I think she also brought a lot of health and happiness to a lot of often quite sick people.
Mum’s desire to look and understand the whole picture shines through her work. She ran a research group, composed mainly of chemists who worked on the extraction and identification of these natural products for many years, some of whom are still finishing their work with her to this day.
She continues to inspire me with her drive and ability to learn, and her ability to make me do all the heavy work on her allotment when I visit.
DENISE SYNDERCOMBE-COURT, READER IN FORENSIC SCIENCE
Nominated by Ryan Wetherell, Business Development Manager, NorthGene
I have nominated her as my inspiring women because she is very much at the forefront of any developments within the field of Forensic Genetics. Alongside her research, Denise advises on a multitude of committees surrounding the ethics and regulation of using DNA for medico-legal purposes. Furthermore Denise runs an accredited DNA testing laboratory which has assisted in the development of a plethora of techniques and testing kits.
Denise’s precedence and experience within my own field, in addition to her business and regulatory knowledge of forensic genetics has, and continues to, inspire my own career’s development and direction.
Have you been inspired by our inspiring women in STEM? We would love to hear about your inspiring women! Join the conversation on twitter using #QuantuMDxIWD