The sixth BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium

This is a guest blog from Hannah Dee, lecturer in computer science at Aberystwyth University and BCSWomen deputy chair.

The sixth BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium was held at the University of Nottingham, on the 4th April 2013. The Lovelace is the UK’s national conference for women undergraduate and taught MSc students, organised by BCSWomen with support from the local hosting institution, many industrial sponsors, and Aberystwyth University. Around 90 people came, from across the UK (the furthest travelled were a pair of MSc students from Robert Gordon, in Aberdeen, who made an 800 mile round trip). The day featured talks from industry and from academia, a panel session on careers, a poster session of student work, a social, and lots of time for networking.

The Lovelace has three aims:

  • To provide a forum for undergraduate women to share their ideas and network
  • To provide a stimulating series of talks from women in computing, both from academia and industry
  • To provide both formal (talks) and informal (networking) advice to undergraduate women about careers in computing from a female perspective

The talks

  • Natasha Alechina of Nottingham talked about ontologies; how we can formalise a domain, and how we can work out if there are bugs in our formalisation
  • Jemma Chambers of CISCO spoke on her career; what it’s like working in a big company on their graduate program, and talked a lot about why we have to sit at the table
  • Julie Greensmith (also the host) spoke about artificial immune systems (AIS), and how interdisciplinary work can really pay benefits if you do it properly. Julie came up with the Dendritic Cell Algorithm in AIS and described that to us, as well as showing work that other researchers have done on this algorithm since her invention.
  • The last talk before lunch was Gillian Arnold, BCSWomen chair. She spoke about the way tech careers can be really rewarding; she’d asked around her contacts for “the best moment in your career so far”, which ranged from earning LOADS of cash, to getting an MBE, to helping out in developing countries… there are loads of different ways to have an excellent career in tech.
  • After lunch, Hannah Dee spoke about my research into computer vision for plant imaging; her talk was presented entirely through timelapse photography and, like Julie’s earlier talk, stressed the importance (and fun!) of interdisciplinary computer science.
  • And finally, the last official talk of the day was given by Milena Nikolic of Google, who talked about how she got into Google, what it’s like to work there, and what she’s worked on so far – search, mobile, Google Play…

The Poster contest

This year the poster contest was amazingly strong. A lot of the sponsors got involved in the poster contest too: Google speaker Milena Nikolic helped judge the best first year contest, EMC staff helped judge best final year, and Madeleine Field from FDM helped judge the MSc student prize. It gives the students a real boost seeing actual recruiters from industry not only supporting the event with sponsorship, but also engaging with the students and their work.

The Google Excellence Award for Best First Year (£500, sponsored by Google, but I expect you’ve guessed that) went to:

  • Roseanna McMahon, of the University of Bath

The second year student poster award, sponsored by the HEA, was so difficult to judge we gave two equal second place awards.

  • First prize (£300) went to Carys Williams of the University of Bath
  • Joint second prize awards (£100 each) went to Heidi Howard of the University of Cambridge, and Jo Dowdall of the University of Dundee

The best final year student poster award was sponsored by EMC, and went to

  • First place (£300): Sia Xin Yun Suzannah of University of Edinburgh
  • Second prize (£200): Dung Kim Hoang Tran of the University of Bath

The best Masters student poster award, sponsored by FDM, was also exceptionally difficult to judge. I can personally confirm that this was very difficult, as it was judged by myself, Amanda Clare, and Maddy from FDM; we spoke with all of the entrants, narrowed it down to four, then to three, then to two… and finally… We decided to split the prize and give two first place awards of £150 each to:

  • Blessing Mbipom of Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen
  • Maraim Masoud of University of Southampton

And finally the people’s choice award for best poster as voted for by the attendees (£150, sponsored by Interface3) went to Alexandra Kearney, of the University of Edinburgh

If these women are the future of technology, we’re in safe hands!

The Panel

The aim of the panel – and indeed a lot of the aim on the BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium – is to show women students that there are loads of different ways to be a successful woman in computing. So on the panel this year we had Lucy Hunt, an independent contractor who arranges her work so she gets 2 months holiday every year; Gillian Arnold who’s spent 20 years in IBM and who now runs her own company; Jemma Chambers who’s in CISCO and has a young son; and Dr Amanda Clare a lecturer from Aberystwyth. This way, if students are thinking of an academic career, a big company, contracting, or entrepreneurship there’s someone on the panel who’s got experience of that and can provide advice. The discussion ranged far and wide, covering pretty much all aspects of life as a woman in computing from careers planning, to sexisim in the workplace, to work-life balance.


The day finished off with a social in the Computer Science Atrium in Nottingham. The social was sponsored by CA Technologies; CA had been with us all day in the employer zone and generally networking with attendees. As people relaxed after the hectic day with a well-deserved glass of wine or juice (and cake), CA reps chatted with students about their career plans, people got together to take photographs with new friends and old, and lots of people said they’d like to come again next year.

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