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Ada Lovelace Day 2021 at BU: celebrating women in STEM – Professor Jane Murphy and Dr Sue Green

A portrait of Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace

 Tuesday 12th October is Ada Lovelace Day: an international celebration of women’s achievements in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Often referred to as the ‘first computer programmer’, Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) inspired Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers in the 1940s. Find out more about her here.

All week we are profiling a selection of the women who work in STEM disciplines at BU, in areas as varied as games technology, sport psychology, electronics and clinical nutrition. Today we feature Professor Jane Murphy and Dr Sue Green.

Professor Jane Murphy, Professor of Nutrition and co-lead for the Ageing and Dementia Research Centre

Prof Jane Murphy

Prof Jane Murphy

Jane’s work focuses on key nutrition-related problems in older adults and how to translate nutrition science into practice. At a national level, she has led knowledge exchange projects commissioned by Health Education England to provide innovative education and training to improve dementia care across the health and social care workforce.

Dr Susan Dewhurst, Head of Department and Principal Academic in Exercise Physiology, who nominated her, says:

“Jane is a role model as a research leader committed to solving key nutrition problems in older adults. She has won funding from prestigious organisations like the Burdett Trust for Nursing and NIHR. Jane’s research has direct impact in practice through her clinical lead role in the Wessex Academic Health Science Network. She influences high standards in education and practice in her role as an elected council member for the Association for Nutrition and is a recognised mentor.”

What does Ada Lovelace mean to you?

Ada Lovelace was clearly a mathematical genius, ahead of her time and a trailblazer for women in science in the 19 century, working with scientists much better-known at the time, such as Babbage and Faraday.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career in a STEM subject?

Good nutrition is fundamental to support health and wellbeing and live a long and rewarding life. Through some early influences, I developed a keen interest in nutrition, and recognising how it related to ill-health and preventing disease thus paved the way towards my career in a STEM subject.

Moreover, learning about Elsie Widdowson – a pioneer nutrition scientist and dietitian – inspired me. She pushed boundaries to advance the science of nutrition in so many respects, including how the UK population could live with food rationing through the challenges of WW2 and creating the first UK food composition tables.

What would your advice be to girls looking at STEM subjects as a possible career?

Go for it! Research in science works best (and is more fun!) in collaboration and when working in partnership, regardless of gender, to solve fascinating problems and co-create real-world solutions. Keep focused on doing the best you can.

What would you like to change as a result of your research?

I’d like to see a better appreciation of the role of good nutrition across society to optimise health and wellbeing, particularly as we age and for older people, ensuring everyone receives evidence-based nutrition advice that’s appropriate to their needs.


Dr Sue Green, Associate Professor and Deputy Head of Department for Nursing Science

Dr Sue Green

Dr Sue Green

Sue has held funded clinical academic posts combining research and clinical work and has been at the forefront of developing clinical academic careers for nurses.

Sue’s research programme focuses on aspects of clinical nutrition, particularly nutritional care by nurses. Her initial research focused on laboratory-based approaches to study appetite. She has since focused on research to develop evidence for nursing practice, including nutritional screening, and how to apply that evidence to patient care.

A registered nurse with experience in acute and continuing care environments, Sue continues to work clinically as a nutrition nurse seconded to Solent NHS Trust.

Prof Stephen Ersser, Head Of Department For Nursing Science and Professor Of Nursing And Dermatology, who nominated her, says:

“Sue is an amazing leader in clinical nutrition related to nursing, especially nutritional screening and is recognised in her field.”

What does Ada Lovelace mean to you?

Ada Lovelace’s reputation supports efforts to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career in a STEM subject?

A childhood spent observing animal behaviour and organisms’ responses to different environments inspired me to study a STEM subject. I followed my first career as a registered nurse by studying for a Zoology degree, before focussing on nutrition and health at masters and PhD level.

Have you faced any challenges in your chosen field because you’re a woman?

It is very difficult to be recognised as a woman in science if you are also a registered nurse. The two are seen as different fields, where in fact there is great synergy between the two.

What would your advice be to girls looking at STEM subjects as a possible career?

Go with your passion and your curiosity. Studying a STEM subject can lead to a wealth of career opportunities.

What would you like to change as a result of your research?

My hope is that my research will improve patients’ nutritional care and care delivery.

Ada Lovelace Day 2021 at BU: celebrating women in STEM

Ada Lovelace

Tuesday 12th October is Ada Lovelace Day: an international celebration of women’s achievements in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Often referred to as the ‘first computer programmer’, Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) inspired Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers in the 1940s. Find out more about her here.

All week we are profiling a selection of  the women who work in STEM disciplines at BU,  in areas as varied as games technology, sport psychology, electronics and clinical nutrition. Today we feature Dr Rebecca Neal and Dr Amanda Wilding.

Dr Rebecca Neal

Dr Rebecca Neal, Senior Lecturer in Exercise Physiology and Programme Leader for the Sport and Exercise Science degree programme. Rebecca teaches physiology and research methods units across the Department of Rehabilitation and Sport Sciences and the Department of Sport and Events Management. She has conducted research in the Extreme Environments Laboratory at the University of Portsmouth in the areas of exercise and environmental physiology and sports performance for the English Institute of Sport, British Triathlon, GlaxoSmithKline and the Ministry of Defence.

Susan Dewhurst, Head of Department and Principal Academic in Exercise Physiology, who nominated her, says: “Rebecca is an early career researcher excelling in the traditionally male-dominated field of sport and exercise science. Her work in the field of extreme environmental physiology is published in prestigious physiology journals and she has been the recipient of external and internal grants to advance her work. [She] contributes greatly to transferring her research findings to the end user, through public engagement events, magazine articles and podcasts aimed at raising the awareness of the issues and needs of individuals exercising in extreme environments.”

What does Ada Lovelace mean to you?  

“The vision that Ada Lovelace had, to create and use a computer that would produce an answer that has not been pre-programmed, is fundamental to research in STEM. I’ve been interested in understanding how the body works since trying to develop athletic skills as a child. I chose to follow this up with a degree in sport and exercise science, where the lecturers and my desire to adventure inspired me to dig deeper into what happens to our bodies in different stressful environments, whether that was exercise, disease or different extreme environments. Now, research from sports science and environmental physiology, like that of my PhD research on heat and hypoxia, is being used to explore therapeutic treatments to aid clinical populations.”

What sparked your interest in male-dominated sports and extreme environmental physiology?

“Growing up, my drive to be involved with sports stemmed from wanting to explore, learn new skills, and compete. When you’re competitive, you want to achieve, no matter what sport it is, so I would train with anyone who thought the same – often men. The same was true for exploring science throughout school and my degree, and these experiences led to me completing a PhD in Environmental Physiology, working with a team of like-minded people.

 What do you consider to be your biggest achievements so far in your career?

“So far, I’m particularly proud of the series of publications that came out of my PhD, as the experiments were demanding, involving about 40 different types of whole-body and molecular physiological measurements, with human participants visiting the laboratory over 30 times across several months. More recently, I led the successful launch of a new degree programme at BU, during a pandemic, which we are excited to see develop now our new students are back on campus and in the Human Performance Laboratory.”

Have you faced any challenges in your chosen field because you’re a woman? 

“Exercise physiology is a STEM area that combines topics that have historically been led by men: science and sport/exercise. We have progressed in many ways, but in both areas, there is much work to do for equal opportunities. Support exists for women researchers and educators in exercise physiology, however there is not equal representation yet at international conferences, and the focus of this research is often on male physiological responses. Still, the ability of women to lead complex studies is often underestimated. There is a drive in current research, which our research at BU is a part of, to include and focus studies on female physiology both during exercise and at different stages of their life – to better serve more people and further our knowledge.”

Dr Amanda Wilding

Dr Amanda Wilding, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Psychology. Amanda has supported athletes, coaches and parents in hockey, rugby, fencing and athletics, from county to international level, including athletes at their relevant world championships. She is also visiting lecturer at the Azerbaijan Sport and Physical Education University

Her colleague, Susan Dewhurst, Head of Department and Principal Academic in Exercise Physiology, says: “In addition to teaching, Amanda works as a sports psychologist in professional male football and army rugby. Her involvement in male-dominated sports led to her being invited to lead a workshop on Women in Sport to women at the Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University in Saudi Arabia.”

What does Ada Lovelace mean to you?  

“As a child I was always told I was no good at maths. I’m the fanciful Ada that wanted to fly, not the logical one. I never imagined I would end up in a STEM subject.”

 What or who inspired you to pursue your career in a STEM subject? 

“As a child, I was a runner. My father pointed out a woman once and told me: ‘She’s the lady who went to the Olympics’. ‘Wow!’, I thought. How do you do that? I’m never going to be a professional athlete but how do I ensure others are?’ At the end of my undergraduate degree I still hadn’t found my passion, but I knew the woman still worked in athletics so I contacted her. She told me that on her way home from the Olympics, she asked a man what event he did. He told her he was a sports psychologist, and helped ‘people to be at their best under pressure’. She told him: ‘I wish I’d met you three days ago, I could have been sat here with a medal. I underestimated myself and just ran my slowest time of the season.’ That was when I knew I was destined to be a sport psychologist.”

 What sparked your interest in male-dominated sports?

“I fell into it. When the Premier League started the Elite Player Performance Plan, football clubs were required to hire a registered sport psychologist. Southampton FC contacted me and 11 years later I’m still there. It’s been an accident rather than design, but I love it.

Have you faced any challenges in your chosen field because you’re a woman? 

“I’m working on a project called ‘Women in elite football: have you got the balls for it?’, investigating female experiences of operating in a male-dominated environment. I’ve previously been told not to stand on the side-lines as it’s ‘not your place, go to the grandstand’, I’ve been to places with no changing facilities as there are ‘no women in football’. The challenge is to be taken seriously without compromising my own identity and philosophy.”

Tell us about your area of work/research

“It is all about getting the best out of people, whether that’s an elite athlete striving for the Olympics, a stroke patient trying to walk again, or a student getting a first in their degree. My work is about people, helping them to understand themselves and the environment around them. It about educating the next generation, and also working directly with those in the sports arena: athletes, coaches, parents etc. I research the real world to drive up professional standards. I currently work with Southampton FC Ladies first team, the Royal Signals Rugby team and England Athletics coaches to support integrating sport psychology into their high-performance teams.”

What would you like to change as a result of your research?

“I’d like to see more women working in the elite context as scientists. The perception that women wear suits, not tracksuits, is something I’d like to see change. My goal is to help males feel more comfortable with women entering their domain, so women don’t feel the need to mould themselves into something they’re not. I don’t want a female to feel like she can’t enter the field because of her gender. ”

What do you consider to be your biggest achievements so far in your career?

“Getting my PhD was amazing. I had two children during this period and thought it was never going to happen. I remember being on stage and as I went to walk across, I got so overwhelmed I cried. It suddenly hit me how much I had given to it.”

What was it like leading a workshop on Women in Sport to women at the Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University in Saudi Arabia?

“The trip was petrifying and amazing. Getting into the country was so intimidating as I was travelling alone but the country, the people, and the whole experience was fantastic. The ladies were so engaged – I learnt just as much from them as they did from me. We compared and contrasted our different cultures, our approaches to sport and where women fit into this picture. This trip sparked my interest in examining female experiences in elite sport and male-dominated environments.”

What would your advice be to girls looking at STEM subjects as a possible career? 

“There is much more to STEM subjects than what we are taught at school. You can go down avenues you never knew existed. Keep going until you find the right path for you. Ask questions, seek experiences, and go for it – you never know where it will take you.”

Ada Lovelace Day 2021 at BU: celebrating women in STEM

Ada Lovelace

Tuesday 12th October is Ada Lovelace Day: an international celebration of women’s achievements in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Often referred to as the ‘first computer programmer’, Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) inspired Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers in the 1940s. Find out more about her here.

All week we are profiling a selection of  the women who work in STEM disciplines at BU,  in areas as varied as games technology, sport psychology, electronics and clinical nutrition. Today we feature Dr Roya Haratian, Dr Vanessa Heaslip and Dr Michele Board.

Dr Roya Haratian

Dr Roya Haratian, Assistant Professor in Electronics in the Department of Design and Engineering. Roya works in multidisciplinary topics such as Mechatronics, Signal Processing and Control System Design applied across different industries. Roya is the co-lead for Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) in her department and submitted their application for the SWAN bronze award with the aim of supporting women in their career development. They have also formed an inclusivity committee to address diversity and equality.

Dr Diogo Montalvao, Deputy Head of the Department of Design and Engineering, who nominated her, says: “Roya has led the department’s submission to Athena Swan and championed the Women in Engineering Society at BU, [launched in 2019]. Her contribution to raising the profile of women in engineering aT BU has therefore been of the utmost importance. She has been challenging gender stereotypes by being the most qualified engineering professional we have in Electronics. She is our ‘in-house’ specialist in a range of fields… traditionally dominated by men, namely mechatronics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, with applications to biomechanics.”

Please tell us a little about your area of work/research

“My research is currently focused on, but not limited to, on-body sensing and signal processing systems for the development of new algorithms to improve the quality of life… [The aim is] to bring awareness to the early signs of issues and provide biofeedback for stress management by collecting physiological signals. My research looks at how awareness of user experience affects the human-machine interaction (HMI), in areas such as utility, ease of use, and efficiency. The machine’s ability to recognise users’ experience during user-machine interaction would improve the overall HMI usability and such machines could adapt their speed, for example, based on the user experience.”

What would you like to change as a result of your research?

” My research is mainly centred on the design and development of assistive technologies for long-term monitoring of mental well-being.”

What would your advice be to girls looking at STEM subjects as a possible career?

“My advice to women who are considering a career in STEM is to believe in their abilities and power to break the gender stereotypes which still exist in the 21st century. Although now it is more subtle in comparison to decades ago, we need to be aware that still it exists.”

 

Dr Vanessa Heaslip

Dr Vanessa Heaslip, Associate Professor and Deputy Head of the Department for Nursing Science. Vanessa was nominated by her colleague Professor Steven Ersser, Head of Department for Nursing Science, who describes her as an “amazing leader in nursing related to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups [especially] that of the health of the Romany/travelling community.”

In 2019, she was honoured as a Woman of the Year at the prestigious annual Women of the Year Lunch and Awards held in London. She was named for her commitment in ensuring health and educational equity for individuals from marginalised communities. Vanessa’s educational research in widening participation and fair access in higher education, alongside her clinical research in vulnerability and vulnerable groups in society, whose voices are not traditionally heard, is nationally and internationally recognised.

Her current and recent research includes her role as principal investigator on a project funded by the Burdett Trust to co-produce a technological solution to support rough sleepers to self-care by locating and accessing services, and leading a systematic review exploring experiences of vulnerability among adult male prisoners. She also worked with BU archaeology colleague Professor Tim Darvill on the Human Henge project at Stonehenge, which investigated the impact of immersive experiences of prehistoric landscapes on the well-being of participants with mental health issues.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career in a STEM subject? 

“My research interests in health equity and addressing health disparities faced by many socially excluded groups derived from my clinical experience as a nurse working in both hospitals and community settings. I find it simply unacceptable that those who need healthcare services the most often face the most barriers in accessing it, and feel compelled to raise this educationally, clinically and politically.

“I am honoured to be recognised in this way and recognise I stand on the shoulders of women like Ada. who came before me, those who dared to follow their passion and ask questions of the world in which we live.”

Dr Michele Board

Dr Michele BoardAssociate Professor and Deputy Head of the Department for Nursing Science. Michele, who is the deputy lead for the Ageing and Dementia Research Centre.  was also nominated by colleague Professor Steven Ersser, who says: “[Michele] is an “amazing leader in gerontological nursing, with specialist expertise in the field of dementia care and frailty.”

Michele describes herself as being “passionate about caring for the person, not the diagnosis”.  She has been an adult nurse since 1985 and has had a broad range of clinical experience, with a specific focus on nursing the older person. She started lecturing in 2003, and has also led the development of dementia education programmes for health and social care staff working in the NHS and the private sector.

Michele’s general research interests are in the field of nursing older people and people with dementia. As a qualitative researcher she uses creative approaches to collect and present research data. A recent grant from Alzheimer’s Research UK enabled her to evaluate their app, A Walk Through Dementia – designed to put people in the shoes of someone living with dementia – for its effect on learners’ understanding of the lived experience of dementia.

Her other research work includes widening participation and nurse education, as well as consideration of the impact of changes to nurse education funding on recruitment and retention of staff. She also works one day a month with the Dorset Memory Advisory Service, contributing to the assessment of people with a cognitive impairment.

BU celebrates Ada Lovelace Day 2021

Ada Lovelace, 1815-1852

To commemorate Ada Lovelace Day today Heads of Department have nominated colleagues who are leading in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). These women are being profiled all week on the Research blog and across social media channels.

Yesterday we featured Professor Wen Tang and Dr Melanie Coles from Creative Technology and Computing respectively.

Tomorrow the spotlight will be on the areas of sports psychology and exercise physiology with profiles of Dr Amanda Wilding and Dr Rebecca Neal.

Thursday highlights Dr Roya Haratian from Electronics, as well as Dr Michele Board and Dr Vanessa Heaslip from the Department of Nursing Science.

We close the week on Friday with a post featuring Professor Jane Murphy, Professor of Nutrition and Dr Sue Green, also from the Department of Nursing Science.

Who was Ada Lovelace?

Ada Lovelace Day is named after Ada Byron, the Countess of Lovelace, who is often regarded as the first computer programmer for her work in machine programming. Born in 1815 to the poet Lord Byron and Lady Anne Byron, a mathematician, Ada collaborated with inventor Charles Babbage on his general purpose computing machine, known as the Analytical Engine. She was the first to recognise that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation, and to have published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine.

Ada Lovelace Day is now an international celebration of the achievements of women in STEM subjects. It aims to raise the profile of women working in these subjects and, in doing so, encourage more girls into STEM careers, as well as supporting women already working in STEM.

Find out more about Ada Lovelace day celebrations on the Finding Ada website.

Ada Lovelace Day 2021 at BU: celebrating women in STEM

Ada Lovelace

Tuesday 12th October is Ada Lovelace Day: an international celebration of women’s achievements in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Often referred to as the ‘first computer programmer’, Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) inspired Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers in the 1940s. Find out more about her here.

All week we are profiling a selection of  the women who work in STEM disciplines at BU,  in areas as varied as games technology, sport psychology, electronics and clinical nutrition. Today we feature Professor Wen Tang and Dr Melanie Coles.

Professor Wen Tang

Professor Wen Tang, Professor of Games Technology in the Creative Technology Department. Wen is Director of the Centre for Smart Immersive Technology and the lead developer of the BU Games Analytics Platform.

Her colleague, Fred Charles (Head of Department of Creative Technology) says, “Throughout her career as an academic in Computer Science, Wen has provided leadership and mentoring to staff and students in Mathematical Modelling, Algorithmics, Physics in Simulations, Computer Games Programming, Virtual and Augmented Reality. She is inspiring as a teacher and a researcher, and her funded projects have led to positive impacts on society.”

Wen has an impressive list of research funding awards to her name, including, most recently, £2 million worth of projects for which she is BU’s PI, such as H2020-MSCA-RISE-2018:iGame, looking at gaming techniques for e-health and m-health apps, Interreg 2 Seas Mers Zeeen PATH, aimed at improving perinatal mental health, and Interreg Channel ASPIRE, creating tools for healthier lifestyles.

What does Ada Lovelace mean to you?  

“Ada Lovelace is a great inspiration and a towering figure for women in all walks of life, especially in STEM subjects. She is proof that women are equal to men in STEM subjects –  in creativity and in practice. I am inspired by both Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, for their love of science and their intellectual power of thinking.”

What or who inspired you to pursue your career in a STEM subject?  

“When I was a young girl growing up in China during the cultural revolution, my father taught me to pursue knowledge and to have intellectual curiosity.  As an engineer himself, he advised me to study an engineering subject in my first degree.  I was also greatly inspired by a Chinese female poet from the 9th century Song dynasty, Li Qing Zhao, who is revered as one of China’s greatest poets.”

Have you faced any challenges in your chosen field because you’re a woman?  

“Although women are increasingly studying STEM subjects at school and university, there is still a very low glass ceiling in China for the employment or promotion of woman in companies or universities after their education. And there are still barriers too in Europe. For 15 years I was the only female on the committee of the European Association for Computer Graphics. During my academic career, I was one of very few female members of my teaching group, and for a very long time I was the only female in my department. It can be lonely and there can be barriers when communicating over different issues, but this does not detract from my love of computer graphics-related subjects (games, VR, AR) and the enjoyment of researching and teaching in this area.”

What would your advice be to girls looking at STEM subjects as a possible career?  

“I would very much encourage girls to look towards STEM subjects as possible career paths, and am always very happy to meet girls studying games, software engineering and games design courses. I tell them during open days that girls are just as good as boys in computer programming.  The situation is slowly improving, but the UK digital industry really still needs more woman and girls.”

Please tell us a little about your area of work/research. 

“My research area is concerned with digital games, virtual reality and augmented reality technologies. While I research novel algorithms and frameworks to address specific technical questions, I am also interested in how the technologies can be used to address societal challenges through interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary collaborations. My recent large European projects have been focused on digital technologies for healthcare.”

What would you like to change as a result of your research?   

“By working within large consortia of project partners across different countries, I have gained an understanding of gaps in digital technologies in real-life applications. These gaps require new ways of research thinking… we need to think and work more creatively and imaginatively to put emerging technologies to real-life use.”

Wen is clearly an inspiration to young women in computing. A former student of hers, who now works for a Cambridge-based company as a user interface designer, recently wrote to her: “I gave a presentation for International Women’s Day, describing my experience in the industry as a woman. I also discussed [what] it was like going through university, and that you were the only female professor on our course. I would like to thank you for being a wonderful inspiration to me personally too.”

Photo by David Latorre Romero on Unsplash

Dr Melanie Coles, Deputy Head of Department in Computing and Informatics. Her colleague Dr Vegard Engen describes her as “one of the most experienced, knowledgeable and pragmatic problem solvers we have in the department, often being a key person both academic and professional support staff reach out to if they have a problem. As one of the deputy heads, Melanie is the only female in such a leadership position in the computing department.

“She continuously champions gender equality, and challenges gender stereotypes through her leadership role, teaching and Athena SWAN contributions. While having moved into management and leadership, she retains her technical curiosity and involvement with students, and makes a real difference to our department – for students and staff alike.”

Melanie’s research in computing began in the early 1990s, putting her in the vanguard of women studying computing and information systems. She received her MSc in Distributed Information Systems from the University of East London in 1994, having attained a BSc (Hons) in Psychology prior to that. She was the recipient of Technology Strategy Board Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) grants in 2009, and worked alongside computer scientists at Morning Data Limited and Hark Solutions.

Her teaching experience has informed her research and, as she explains, “[my research] has impacted upon subsequent teaching and learning developments. I have taught programming for a number of years, with different sized cohorts, at different levels, on different degrees and it was this experience that led me to explore why programming can be difficult to both learn and teach, and what can be done to improve the student experience in learning to program.”

Combining her expertise in psychology, pedagogy and computing/information systems, Melanie’s research is powerfully demonstrated in publications she has co-authored on subjects such as the application of innovative technologies and practices in remote learning, undergraduate students’ learning approaches in programming and brain types as programming aptitude predictors.

Melanie continues to teach Principles of Programming, Persuasive Technology and Behaviour Change, and Cyberpsychology. She also mentors several members of staff and, in the words of another colleague, Dr Gernot Liebchen, “always looks at the best interest of the students in a student-centric approach, while focusing on academic integrity”.

Profiles by Nicolette Barsdorf-Liebchen