Tag Archives: scientist

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Today, 11th February, is the United Nation’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Over the past few years there has been a global push to engage more women and girls in science in order to reduce the gender imbalance within the STEM industries. Whilst progress has been made, still more needs to be done. Our fact file below highlights the existing issues with regards to gender representation within science and engineering.

Collectively, we need to work together to inspire young women to pursue careers in science. At Newcastle University we have a fantastic team of outreach officers who’s job it is to encourage young people to engage with STEM. Take a look at the different workshops they offer here.

Interview with a Scientist: Justin, Biologist

This week we interviewed Justin, a biologist who has recently started working on a PhD looking into the microbes in woodland soils and how they relate to essential processes such as decomposition.phd

Why is your research important?

There is a lack of current understanding of woodland soils, which are really important and we rely on them a lot so we need to have a strong understanding of them to be able to care for them effectively.

What did you do before starting your PhD?

I had a year out before starting my undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of York. During this year I travelled to America and volunteered at a bat hospital. During my first degree I had a placement year working a Kew Gardens. I helped on the millennium seed bank project which aims to conserve rare seeds from plants that are at risk of extinction.

I stayed at the University of York  for my Masters Degree, but also went to Uganda in this year to study the distribution of tropical birds for my masters research. I’ve just started my first year of my PhD.

How did you decide on PhD?

I have always been interested in networks in nature, like food webs, for example. It happened that my PhD supervisor is an expert in this area so it was a great chance for me to learn more about networks.

justinWhat advice would you give to someone wanting to study at university?

Do and see as much as you can, take part in lots of different actvities and volunteer. Have a broad range of interests, not only does it look good on a CV or personal statement but it can help you discover what you want to do and it’ll help you make lots of friends once you get to uni.

What was your favourite part of university?

Meeting new people, trying new things. I tried out things like caving and scuba diving while I was at uni – things that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

Whats the best thing about being a PhD student?

Freedom learn about the things that I find interesting.

What do you plan to do in the future?

Continue to investigate how we can understand complex links between species.

Has university helped you get where you want to be?

Definitely – uni is where I want to be.

interview-justin

International Girls in ICT Day 2017

There is a huge shortfall of ICT professionals worldwide, with many companies looking to increase the number of women working for them. However, many girls don’t even consider a career in ICT. We decided to celebrate some influential women in ICT from the times computers were invented to now.

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace

Ada was an English Mathematician who worked on the ‘Analytical Engine’, one of the first designs for modern computers.  She recognised that computers could do a lot more than was previously thought and designed the first algorithm that could be carried out by computers. She is often called the first computer programmer for designing this.

Joan Elisabeth Lowther Murray

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Joan was an English cryptanalyst (analysing information systems to breach cryptographic security systems) who is best known for her work as a code breaker at Bletchley Park during World War II. She worked on the Enigma project, which cracked the German system of encoding their messages and led to WWII being much shorter and saving thousands of lives. The Enigma project was a very early form of ICT.

Grace Hopper

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Grace was an American Computer Scientist and a United States Navy Rear Admiral. She was the first person to develop a compiler, despite being told by many people that it would never work. A compiler is a programme that changes what you write on a computer into a language that can be understood by the computer. This allows computers to work with words rather than just numbers as was previously done. There is now a yearly Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, giving women in computer science a chance to share their research.

Anita Borg

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Working as a computer scientist  she developed ways to analyse high speed memory systems in computers. She founded Systers, a network for women in technology, and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. In 1997, she founded the Institute for Women and Technology (now the Anita Borg Institute), to increase the number of women in technology and their impact on the world.

Marissa Mayer

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She joined Google as employee number 20 and as their first female engineer after studying computer science at university. She oversaw the layout of Google’s home page and became Vice President of search products and user experience. In 2012 she became president and CEO of Yahoo! and led them to buy Tumblr in 2013.

Engineering Education Scheme

This week we’ve been helping out with the Engineering Education Scheme. Lots of year 12 students from the local area have been working with industry to come up with a project based on real scientific, engineering and technological problems. The students have come in and had a chance to work in the engineering laboratories and workshops that university students and researchers would use. After lots of problem solving and hard work, they presented what they had done so far. These are just a selection of some of the projects.

Mechanical Engineering – Lifting

This group was working on creating a lifting mechanism for a heavy item/box. The current method of lifting isn’t very good as its centre of gravity is in the middle so it wobbles when they lift it. They created a design with a cradle for the box which spreads out the centre of gravity. It is more stable and quicker to lift, saving the company time. The use of shackles mean the box can attached by hand, no tools are needed, again saving time.

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Mechanical Engineering – Shield

A mechanical engineering group created an extendable shield. This is important for keeping people safe in war. In general all shields appeared to be really big or small, but there were none that could adapt to the situation. Use of cogs allowed the shield to be extended or retracted, solving the problem.

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Electrical and Civil Engineering – Solar Power

The brief from WSP Global was to provide renewable energy through use of solar panels to the 350 people who work in the office. The students made a to scale model of the office based on blueprints and used a fixed angle light (as the sun) to look at the shading on the roof of the building. They also ran computer simulations to look at which areas would capture the most sun.

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Civil Engineering – Leisure Centre

The brief was to design a leisure centre on land near to St James Football Park. There were lots of problems to be overcome in the design. The centre was to be built on top of an old mine shaft, which might mean the building would fall into the ground. They calculated that it was too expensive to fill the land underneath with concrete, so calculations had to be made for how heavy each part of the leisure centre would be.

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Marine Engineering – Underwater vehicles

This marine engineering group was helped by engineers from BAE systems. They looked at making an underwater unmanned vehicle. They had to do some problem solving with getting the submarine to sink, working out the exact amount of weight required to make it neutrally buoyant. They used electromagnets to power the vehicle.

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Marine Engineering – Underwater pipes

This group worked with GE oil and gas looking at using flexible pipes underneath the seabed. They compared two different materials; thermoplastic and thermoset.  They did lots of tests, looking at things such as compression (squashing) and torsion (twisting) to find out its properties. They also looked at factors such as the price. Testing found that it was really important that there were no faults in the thermoplastic as it broke a lot easier. Underwater pipes are really important for transporting things like oil and gas.

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Interview with a Scientist: Kirsty, Marine Ecologist

We recently interviewed Kirsty, a 2nd year PhD student at Newcastle University. Kirsty has been studying European lobsters and their movements between habitats. She uses statistical models to understand how environmental conditions influence the timing and pattern of lobster movements.

What impact does your research have?phd

It can help us understand the impact of movement patterns on the number of lobsters that we can catch so that we don’t catch too many and they are sustainably managed. Sustainable management ensures that there are enough lobsters for the future, benefiting not only the environment, but also the fishing industry.

What did you do before your PhD?

I studied Zoology at Glasgow University then did a Masters in Forest Ecology at Edinburgh University. Since then I have worked in various Ecology related roles including being a Park Ranger, working in Wildlife Management and assisting research on seabirds and marine renewables.

Why did you chose to do a PhD rather than get a job?

I had worked as a research assistant before and really enjoyed it, I knew I wanted to do more research. By doing a PhD I got to choose the area and lead the research. It’s a great opportunity to devote your time to just one small area of interest and learn some advanced skills. I hope it will help me improve my career and that I will be able to get better research jobs in the future.

How did you decide on your PhD?

I chose the topic because I’m interested in spatial studies. Understanding why animals choose a particular area is really important in making decisions about species conservation and I thought this project would give me the chance to develop lots of transferable skills.

kirtsyWhat advice would you have for someone wanting to study Biology or Zoology at university?

Go to open days and talk to as many people as possible, make sure it’s the right course for you! Speak to people working in the field if you have the chance and get some experience, the RSPB are a good organisation to volunteer for.

What is the best part about being a PhD student and going to university in general?

Meeting different people who are interested in the same things as you and developing your own identity.

What do you plan to do after completing your PhD? 

Id like to stay in academia and keep doing research on spatial ecology.

Has university help you get where you want to be?

Yes, I have learned lots of different skill sets and developed more resilience and motivation.

 

interview-kirsty

Celebrating Marie Curie

Marie Curie was born 149 years ago today. We think she is one of the most inspiring female scientists as one of the first women to make an outstanding contribution to science. Her work overturned established ideas in physics and chemistry and helped overcome societal barriers for women.

Marie Sklodowska was born in Poland in 1867. In 1891 she went on to study physics and maths at Sorbonne University in Paris. She met Pierre Curie, professor of the School of Physics, who she married in 1895, becoming Marie Curie.

The Curies worked together investigating radioactivity, the process where atoms decay by emitting radiation. With help from other physicists they discovered new elements, polonium (named after her home country, Poland) and radium in 1898. This work was extremely difficult as they were constantly exposed to radioactive elements, which made them feel ill, an effect known as radiation sickness. They received the Nobel Peace Prize in Physics for their work in 1903. Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.

Unfortunately, Pierre died from being knocked down by a carriage in 1906. Marie Curie took over his professor post and became the first woman to teach at Sorbonne University. She received a second Nobel Peace Prize in 1911 for her work in chemistry where she determined a way to measure radioactivity.

Her research was crucial in development of X-rays. Marie developed small mobile X-rays that were used in World War One to diagnose injuries. She worked with her daughter at the front line to help diagnose injuries.

Marie Curie died due to exposure to radioactivity during her work in 1934. The Marie Curie Hospital was opened in 1930, specialising in radiological treatment of women suffering from cancer. The Marie Curie charity was established in 1948 which now offers care, support and guidance for people with a terminal illness.

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