Why I attend the London Hopper Colloquium

This is a guest blog from Dr Hannah Dee a lecturer in computer science at Aberystwyth University

The London Hopper Colloquium is one of the key events in the women-in-computing calendar. For 8 years it’s provided a focus and an opportunity for women at the start of their research career, with a poster contest showcasing the work of early career (PhD and post-doctoral) researchers and talks from women on both academic research and careers options outside the academy. This year it was on May 15th, at BCS Southampton St, and about 85 women came along to see what the best new women researchers have to offer. It’s organised by Queen Mary University of London with support from IBM, the BCS Academy, and various other organisations.

 

The posters were brilliant; it’s great to see the range of work people are doing and the enthusiasm these researchers have for their field. Topics ranged from computer music through to robot navigation: there was a real mix of applied and theoretical computer science showing that women are working in every area of our discipline. The winning poster this year came from Gail Ollis of Bournemouth University, who’s doing research into how psychological differences impact upon programming styles and software development. If you’ve ever looked at someone else’s code and said to yourself “Why on earth did they do that?” (and who hasn’t) you’ll be interested in Gail’s work. Second prize went to Shazia Akbar of Dundee, who’s using digital microscope images to try and find breast cancer cells using computer vision.

 

For a lot of the students attending, this event is their first experience of presenting their work outside their own university. One student, Juan Cao, from my university said: “It was a great experience. I got valuable advice from the judges and other attendees who are also female researchers in the field of computers, in particular about preparing and presenting effective research posters.

 

This year the event organiser Caroline Wardle (of QMUL) made a couple of changes to the lineup; we had a wider range of talks and we also had an interactive exhibit on sound-mapping London’s tea-houses. Another new thing this year was a poster spotlight where all 15 poster presenters got one slide and 1 minute 30 seconds to do a lightning talk on the topic of their work. Speaking to various people at the event it became obvious to me that this more varied approach was a real hit – I particularly enjoyed watching the lightning talks, even if some of the speakers were very very nervous.

 

I’ve been going to the Hopper for several years now and often help out (this time I acted as MC, in previous years I’ve been a contestant, a speaker, and a poster judge). I can honestly say that this was one of the best – the organisers have really done a great job. If you’re a woman starting out in computing research, do come next year.

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