This is a guest blog from Helen Miles, research associate, Department of
Computer Science at Aberystwyth University.
This year's BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium was the
8th, and was the biggest in the event's history. This was my first ever
Lovelace Colloquium, and I'm sorry to say it was only as a helper/photographer.
I'd never heard of this event as an undergraduate (admittedly, a few years ago
now), and I wish so much that I had! What a fantastic day, meeting so many
women in tech with such great posters across all kinds of computing topics.
The day involved a number things: a poster
competition for undergraduates at different stages of their course, keynotes
from some very inspirational women in tech, a questions panel, lots of company
careers stalls, and (most importantly) cake. One of the things that impressed
me most about the whole event was how the wonderful Dr Hannah Dee (main
organiser) manages to run the event free for the undergraduates by getting so
many great and generous industrial sponsors to cover different things
throughout the day. It's pretty cool to see so many companies being actively
interested in getting more women employed in tech careers.
The colloquium was headline sponsored by Google (who also gave us some cool
goodie bags), with a delicious lunch by Twitter, and coffee and cake by Bloomberg. Additional travel was sponsored
by BCS, the University of Edinburgh, and SICSA (speaker travel). There were a
lot of employer stalls, including FDM, Kotikan (who made an awesome garden stand!), UTC Aerospace, VMware, GCHQ, Bloomberg (with a cupcake challenge!), Twitter, Scott Logic, EMC and JP Morgan.
I have to say a huge thank you to Amy Guy for being
the local organiser, for putting so much work into this year's colloquium and
for hosting us in the beautiful Informatics Forum at the University of
Edinburgh. It's quite a testament to the colloquium that she attended the event
all through her undergrad, and now she is a postgraduate and still doing so
much to support it.
Four great keynote talks happened throughout the
Being Passionate and Working on Things that Matter
Kate Ho, product manager at Ginsberg.io
Cloak and Swagger: Understanding Data Sensitivity
Through the Lens of User Anonymity
Dr Geetanjali Sampemane, software engineer at
Professor Barbara Webb, University of Edinburgh
How I stuck around for 30 years
Professor Lynda Hardman, CWI Amsterdam
It was great to have perspectives from women in
both academic and industrial roles, and to hear how they got to where they are
now. Some wonderful stories and great advice about following what makes you
happy and persevering to get to that place, as well as some amazing work from
maths games to robotic crickets!
An afternoon panel gave attendees the chance to ask
questions about careers in tech, from both industrial and academic paths. Four
panelists were from sponsoring companies - Google, EMC, Bloomberg and JP Morgan
- and a fifth from the University of Dundee represented academia.
My favourite piece of advice (and I heard so many
others say the same thing!) was from Dr Karen Petrie from the University of
Dundee: she has a playlist of 'power songs' to get her ready for a fight (not
an actual fight...). This is what works for her and she recommended we all find
the thing that works for us, the thing that gets us ready to deal with hard
times and difficult situations. This might be listening to a song, wearing
certain clothes or makeup, or even having two pairs of glasses - a friendly
pair and an intimidating pair!
The panel answering questions about careers in tech
and their own experiences.
This year's poster competition drew the largest
ever number of entries to the Lovelace Colloquium, with over 70 posters from
first year to MSc level. Posters are split into categories based on year of
study. Each poster contest has a prize with an industrial sponsor, and the
winners also got special Google goodie-bags full of cool swag to go with their
Midway through the day, some of the posters are
getting swapped - so many brilliant posters and so few poster boards!
First Year Poster Contest, sponsored by Google
1st place: Summer Jones of Imperial College,
"Computational Neuroscience - Could it Eradicate Memory Loss?"
2nd place: Yiota Laperta of Aberystwyth
University, "Programming an Arduino"
Second Year Poster Contest, sponsored by Slack
This covers undergraduate students in between their
first and final years of study, so second year students from a three-year
course and third year/industrial placement students from a four-year course.
1st place: Emily Fay Horner of Sheffield Hallam
University, "Nanobots: from Fiction to Reality"
2nd place: Lucy Parker of Edinburgh University,
"Assistive Technology for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in the
An honorable mention also went to Natasha Lee of
Bedfordshire University, "Reframing the Mainframe: Struggle for the future of
Final Year Poster Contest, sponsored by EMC
This covers anyone in their final year, so third
year students on a three-year course and fourth year students for those on a
four-year undergraduate course.
1st place: Amanda Curry of Heriot-Watt University,
"Generating Natural Route Instructions for Virtual Personal
2nd place was a 3-way tie:
Jade Evans of Aberystwyth University with
"Teaching and Evaluation of Breast Radiologists, Using Computer Games
Yazhou Liu of the University of Bath,
"Neologisms and Idioms: Translators 'nightmare'"
Jade Woodward of Dundee University, "Let's
Help Around the Kitchen - iPad Game for Children with Autism"
MSc Poster Contest, sponsored by JP Morgan
Dhiya Al Saqri of Buckingham University,
"Digitalised Human Body"
People's Choice Poster, sponsored by interface3
Every attendee gets the chance to vote for their
two favourite posters during the day, with the most popular poster winning the
People's Choice Prize. With so many amazing posters, last year saw a three-way
tie; this year had another incredible array of entries, resulting in a two-way
Emily Wang of Edinburgh University, "Koi Pond"
Milka Horozova of Queen Mary University of London,
"Can a Robot Make this Poster?"
Social at The Potting Shed, sponsored by Scott Logic
The day ended with a social at the lovely Potting
Shed bar, just across the road from the Informatics Forum. Scott Logic kindly
sponsored the evening's drinks and nibbles, where everyone spent time mingling,
chatting about posters, keynotes, and tech, and just having a great time!
So after my first time attending the BCSWomen
Lovelace Colloquium, all I can do is say that if you are an undergraduate woman
in tech, please go! It can sound scary to go to an event like this on your own,
but I can promise you, you aren't alone. As a postdoc, I've been to a few
conferences, but Lovelace was the friendliest and most interesting with such a
variety of topics; no wonder people keep coming back every year.
There's a Flickr album full of photos from the
event available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/handee/sets/72157651948537621/