Ada Lovelace Day 2014

Yesterday was Ada Lovelace Day 2014. Founded in 2009 by Suw Charman-Anderson, Ada Lovelace Day is “an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)”. The original idea was for people to write a blog post about a woman in STEM that they admire, and although the day has now evolved into a much larger celebration including live events (such as the excellent Ada Lovelace Day Live that I went to last night) the blog posts are still an integral part, so here is my (slightly late) contribution.

There are plenty of inspiring women in STEM who I could write about. Astronomers from history, like Caroline Herschel who was the first women in this country to be paid to be a scientist, or Ruby Payne-Scott who was the first female radio astronomer. Women I know who have directly inspired me and helped me to get to where I am today, from my Mum who went to medical school at 16, to my physics teacher Jill Ensell who didn’t think I was crazy for wanting to be a rock star and and physicist, to my boss and generally awesome astronomer Karen Masters. But for my first ever Ada Lovelace Day blog post, I thought I would look to the future and write about a rising STEM star…

Amy Mather (aka MiniGirlGeek) is a 15 year old computer programmer and STEM ambassador who I first met four or five years ago at a Manchester Girl Geek tea party. I was waiting to interview Lucie Green after her talk for the Jodcast but she was being inundated with questions from two kids who turned out to be Amy and her brother Dan. I joined in the conversation and was amazed by the questions Amy and Dan were coming up with and the level of their understanding of complex astrophysics concepts. They then kept popping up at science events in and around Manchester and we had great fun discussing everything in the Universe from the Sun to black holes!

I haven’t had a chance to see Amy since I moved away from Manchester but I’ve been keeping up with her adventures by following her and her Mum on twitter. Despite my attempts to tempt her towards astronomy (!), Amy has followed her passion for coding, and is probably best known for her work with Raspberry Pi doing all sorts of awesome and creative things. She’s given talks about what she does at the Raspberry Jamboree in Manchester and Wired Next Generation, been on Radio 4 and Newsround, and teaches other young people how to code. In November 2013 she was awarded Europe‚Äôs first-ever Digital Girl of the Year Award. I am constantly in awe at what Amy has managed to achieve already, and am convinced she is going to rule the world one day!

During my PhD I quickly came to the realisation that I was never going to be a Vera Rubin or Henrietta Swan Leavitt. It was extremely unlikely that I would be known for my research and discover something that changed our understanding of the Universe. But if I can do something to encourage young people like Amy and Dan to be curious about the Universe they live in, if I can make young people realise that it’s OK to like studying STEM subjects, if I can help young people to decide that science is for them, then I think that’s a job well done.

Me with Amy and Dan at Jodrell Bank Live in 2012. Stolen from @elsie_m_ on twitter.

New Year’s Resolution

I know I’m more than a month and a half late but part of my new year’s resolution this year was to start blogging so here I am (finally). Hopefully this will become a place where I will ramble on about astronomy in more than 140 characters. And in case anyone is wondering, the main reason I chose blogger over wordpress is that I couldn’t get jengupta.wordpress.com!

I’ve been wanting to start blogging for a while now but the final push for me was that I’ve started to properly write my thesis. I need to explain a lot of different astrophysics in my thesis, and I figured that if I could explain these concepts to a general audience through a blog, I would understand them better myself. That’s the theory anyway. Ask me in September if it worked! Plus I tend to spend 7 hours on a train nearly every other weekend so I thought I could put this time to better use than trying to get through Robert Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time series for a second time.

I imagine that it will be a few days before my first proper post as I try to make this blog look a bit more like my website. In the mean time, if you are desperate to know what I’m thinking, head over to twitter.