As you probably already know, Ada Lovelace Day aims to celebrate the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) by encouraging people to shine a light on the women in STEM that they admire. Working in an arts university, I don’t encounter scientists very often so I was unsure who to choose for this year’s post. Then I was invited to the official launch of the What I See Project at the Science Museum, and heard the project’s ambassadors answer all sorts of interesting questions. The two women who inspired me most from that panel were the two I thought I’d be most unable to relate to when I was reading through the list of names beforehand. Both professors in physical sciences at Oxbridge, I really didn’t think I’d have anything in common with them or be able to learn anything from them, but they both proved me wrong. Despite the fact that I will never understand their areas of study and have always felt distanced from the institutions they are part of, hearing Professor Frances Ashcroft and Professor Dame Athene Donald speak left me feeling like I could achieve anything. So, I have decided to share a little bit about them with you. I hope you find their videos interesting.
Professor Frances Ashcroft
Professor of Physiology at the University of Oxford, her “research focuses on ATP-sensitive potassium (KATP) channels and their role in insulin secretion, in both health and disease. She is interested in how KATP channel function relates to channel structure, how cell metabolism regulates channel activity, and how mutations in KATP channel genes cause human disease. The ultimate goal is to elucidate how a rise in the blood glucose concentration stimulates the release of insulin from the pancreatic beta-cells, what goes wrong with this process in type 2 diabetes, and how drugs used to treat this condition exert their beneficial effects.”
Professor Dame Athene Donald
Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Cambridge, her “activity sits within the sector of Biological and Soft Systems, and focusses on using the ideas of soft matter physics to study a wide range of systems of both synthetic and biological origin. There is an emphasis on using different types of microscopy, and in particular environmental scanning electron microscopy, but these are by no means the only approaches used. We have recently been developing passive microrheological techniques for the study of a range of complex fluids, including the inside of cells; we are exploring cell adhesion, mitosis and spreading using optical approaches (including the effect of external physical cues such as topographical patterns); and we have a substantial effort directed at protein aggregation at intermediate lengthscales, predominantly using model protein systems including beta lactoglobulin and insulin but extending to A beta.”
Images and videos via the What I See Project website.