International Women’s Day 2017

International Women’s Day takes place on the 8th March each year. This year at UCLan we are celebrating with a number of events:
From 12:00 – 3:00pm come along to Adelphi Foyer and try on a colourful Chinese ethnic costume. A photographer will be there, if you want your photo(s) taken and there will also be Chinese music and singing during this time.

From 2pm in Foster Lecture Theatre 4 there will be a screening of the film ‘She’s beautiful when she’s angry’ followed by a panel discussion. The film is an exploration of the Women’s Liberation movement in the ’70s and discusses the progress made on Women’s Equality to the present date. This event is open to the public, and free to attend. There is no need to book for this event; just turn up on the day.

And if you are feeling energetic, come along to one of the women led fitness classes in Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre. Admission to these classes is free for everyone.
1-2pm Ab Attack.
1-2pm Meditation
2-3pm Bollywood
3-4pm Circuit training

 

If you have any questions about these events please contact Claire Meadows-Haworth (cmmeadows-haworth1@uclan.ac.uk).

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Call for student contributions for International Women’s Day 2017

For International Women’s Day 2017, the University of Central Lancashire are keen to celebrate the diverse women in our institution. We are looking for student contributions for our event taking place in Foster Learning Zone and Scholars Bar, on the afternoon of Wednesday 8th March 2017.

We want these events to truly showcase the amazing skills, interests and passions of the women who study at UCLan. We are keen to include the talents and experience of all women students. Whatever your background, subject area/ passion each woman has something to offer. We are keen to ensure an intersectional event, and the staff submissions so far reflect this. We would like to ensure that the student contributions come from the wide range of women that we know we have here.

We are open to applications for a presentation, a workshop, an exhibition, a performance, pretty much anything. Contributions can be related to the subject you study, or can be a hobby, or a passion. Tell us what you can do, and how you want to share it with our staff and students.

The only restriction is that to contribute you must be a woman and you must study at UCLan.

The planning group will consider applications received before 1st February 2017. Please send your applications to cmmeadows-haworth1[at]uclan[dot]ac[dot]uk, with the subject “IWD 2017 student contribution application”.

If you have any questions regarding this, or want to chat through your ideas; please contact Claire Meadows-Haworth on 01772 895432 or the above email. Claire will be happy to help develop ideas, and can take suggestions to the planning group.

The Women That Science Forgot: Part 7 Rosalind Franklin

This series of blog posts explores the issue of cultural femicide in Science, part 1 (here) explains what cultural femicide is and contains links to each of the women scientist’s posts. It is hoped that through this series the contribution of these women can be more widely recognised and that perhaps some young women will see female role models who have succeeded in science.

This post is about probably the most famous of our women: Rosalind Franklin.

Rosalind_Franklin

Rosalind Franklin was born in 1920, she showed a high level of intelligence from an early age with her Aunt commenting that “Rosalind is alarmingly clever – she spends all her time doing arithmetic for pleasure, & invariably gets her sums right”. Franklin had many successes during her schooling, winning awards and eventually leaving school with six distinctions. She won a scholarship for college, but after her father’s encouragement gave the scholarship to a ‘deserving’ refugee student.

Franklin earned her degree in Chemistry at Newnham College, Cambridge in 1941. She went to work for the British Coal Utilisation Research Assosciation to fulfuill the requirements of the National Service Act. Here her work focussed on the porosity of coal and found that substances were expelled from coal according to molecular size during heating. This helped to classify coals for use not just as an energy source but in things like gas-masks too. For this work she was awarded her PhD in 1945.

Franklin then spent some time in France where she learned advanced techniques of X-Ray Diffraction and this led to her being appointed to a post in the Medical Research Council’s Biophysics Unit at Kings College London.

By all accounts Franklin did not get on well with her colleagues at Kings; she was a no-nonsense woman, confident in her abilities and did not conform to the quiet reserved female stereotype. Franklin spoke her mind and was not afraid to stand up for herself and her ideas against the men she worked with. This made her time at Kings difficult as she had regular problems with one of her colleagues – Maurice Wilkins, who was a shy and quiet man. The situation was not helped when her boss John Randall handed the X-Ray diffraction of DNA to Franklin, without communicating this to Wilkins.

When the work at Kings revealed two types of DNA strand (named DNA A and DNA B), Randall split the project between Franklin and Wilkins. Franklin was to focus her research on DNA A and Wilkins on DNA B.

In January 1953 Franklin began preparing papers where she presented evidence that DNA had a double helix structure.

This is where the controversy comes into Franklin’s story. At the same time that Franklin was taking X-ray diffraction images of DNA, two researchers at Cambridge; Francis Crick and James Watson were attempting to build a moelcular model of DNA. At some point during the early part of 1953 Crick and Watson were provided with the now famous ‘Photo 51’ (the clearest image ever taken at that time of DNA which clearly showed a double helix structure). Using this and some more of Franklin’s data which they were given when Franklin decided to leave Kings, Crick and Watson were able to build an accurate model of DNA.

Crick and Watson are credited with the discovery of the helical structure of DNA, but Franklin had been gathering the evidence for this for some time. Without Franklin’s picture and her data, Watson and Crick would not have been able to demonstrate the accuracy of their model. In truth, Franklin discovered the structure of DNA.

Watson, Crick and Wilkins were awarded the Nobel prize for the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1962, after Franklin’s death from cancer.

Franklin’s contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA are becoming more widely recognised, but sexism and cultural femicide definitely played a role in her not getting the credit she deserved in her lifetime.

You can read more about Rosalind Franklin (in the words of her sister) here

And this youtube film dramatises the discovery of the structure of DNA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tmNf6ec2kU

The Women that Science Forgot Part 6: Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin

This series of blog posts explores the issue of cultural femicide in Science, part 1 (here) explains what cultural femicide is and contains links to each of the women scientist’s posts. It is hoped that through this series the contribution of these women can be more widely recognised and that perhaps some young women will see female role models who have succeeded in science.

In this post we meet Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin.

Cecilia blank

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin was an English astronomer born in Wendover in England in 1900. In 1919 she won a scholarship to study Physics, Biology and Chemistry at Newnham College, Cambridge. Despite finishing her studies, she was not awarded a degree as Cambridge did not award degrees to women until 1948!

Payne-Gaposchkin realised that if she wished to pursue her studies further she would need to leave England. In 1925 she became the first person to earn a PhD from Radcliffe College. Her thesis examined the chemical make up of stars. From here she worked at the Harvard College Observatory, although this work was unofficial and unacknowledged until 1938.

At the time it was believed that stars and planets contained similar ratios of elements. Payne-Gaposchkin’s work identified that stars are actually made up of mostly hydrogen. Her thesis has been called “undoubtedly the most brilliant PhD thesis ever written in astronomy”.

When reviewing her thesis Henry Noriss Russel dissuaded Payne-Gaposchkin from presenting her conclusion because it went against the prevailing theory of the time. However, 4 years later he published work demonstrating Payne-Gaposchkin’s findings to be correct. He did acknowledge her briefly in his paper but Russel is still given credit for the discovery.

Russell essentially discouraged Payne-Gaposchkin from presenting her work, and went off and pursued her theory for 4 years. He then presented the finding as his, with a brief acknowledgement to her, but took the credit for the discovery.

Payne-Gaposchkin should be one of the most famous astronomers, her name should be in all the text books. But due to culutural femicide and her idea being essentially stolen she is not.

The Women that Science Forgot Part 5: Lise Meitner

This series of blog posts explores the issue of cultural femicide in Science, part 1 (here) explains what cultural femicide is and contains links to each of the women scientist’s posts. It is hoped that through this series the contribution of these women can be more widely recognised and that perhaps some young women will see female role models who have succeeded in science.

In this post we meet Physicist Lise Meitner.

Lise meitner

Meitner was born in Austria in 1878. She was forced to get a private education as women were not allowed to get a degree at public universities at the time. In 1905 she was the 2nd woman to get a PhD from the University of Vienna.

Meitner worked with Otto Hahn (a chemist) at the Max Plank Institute between 1906 and 1912. Together Hahn and Meitner discovered several new isotopes. In 1912 Meitner moved to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, where she worked for a year without a salary as a ‘guest’ in Hahn’s department. In 1938 Meitner (as an academic of Jewish descent) was forced to flee the Nazi regime in Germany.

Meitner’s biggest contribution was the discovery of Nuclear Fission, for which Hahn received the credit (and the Nobel) .

The standard story of the discovery of Nuclear Fission goes like this:

In December 1938, Hahn and his colleague Strausman were trying to create elements heavier than Uranium by bombarding it with neutrons. Instead they found that they had created Barium. Sometimes Meitner is included in this story, but only to say that she left the team before the Barium discovery.

However, if you dig a little deeper the standard story falls apart. In truth the discovery was the culmination of a 4 year collaboration and the Nuclear Physics was as important to the discovery as the Chemistry, Meitner started the work and was the scientific leader of the investigation for four years – this is evident from the publications from the team at the time. When Hahn and Strausman discovered that they had created Barium they could not explain it. It was Meitner, in collaboration with her nephew, Frisch who first provided an explanation for what was happening. They explained how bombarding the Uranium with neutrons split the atom, as the repulsion of so many protons overcame strong nuclear force; and E=MC2 explained the source of energy released in the experiments. They concluded that you could not create a stable element beyond Uranium for these reasons.

It is clear that Physics played as much of a role in this discovery as Chemistry. However, only Hahn was awarded the Nobel in 1944 for the discovery. there are many reasons why Meitner’s contribution is played down. Firstly, though he and Meitner were close friends, he was afraid to credit her in case the Nazi regime found out he was still collaborating with her. This explains why the standard story took hold at the time, but doesn’t account for why in the 60+ years since the Nobel, the story hasn’t changed. Clearly, the fact the Meitner was a woman plays a part in this.

Meitner was an amazing woman, who refused to work on the atom bomb when she was invited to join the Manhattan project. If you would like to know more about Meitner, and the discovery of Nuclear Fission this video of a talk by Ruth Lewin is a great start. There is also a book about Meitner written by Lewin.

The Women that Science Forgot Part 4: Ada Lovelace

This series explores women in science who have made significant contributions to their field and yet are relatively unknown. The first part of the series (here) explains why this is the case and explores the idea of cultural femicide. In this fourth part of the series we will meet Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer.

 ada lovelace

Ada Lovelace was the daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron, she was born in 1815 into a wealthy family. She described her approach as ‘Poetic science’ and described herself as an ‘Analyst’. Ada was privately educated in maths and science by William Frend, William King, and Mary Somerville. Her remarkable aptitude in mathematics emerged when she was around 17 and mathematics and it’s study dominated much of her adult life.

In the 1840s Lovelace worked on Babbage’s Analytical Engine, a very early and primitive computer. Between 1842 and 1843 Lovelace translated an article by Italian Luigi Menabrea, supplementing it with her own notes. This article was a transcript of a talk given by Babbage at the university of Turin. Within Lovelace’s notes is what is considered to be the first computer programme.

Within her notes Lovelace emphasised the difference between the analytical engine and previous calculating machines, especially the ability to be programmed to solve problems of any complexity. Lovelace even wrote that the machine could compose music, if music could be reduced to programme/code. This was a massive conceptual leap and insight into the potential of computers and computing. Lovelace anticipated the capabilities and implications of modern computing 100 years before they were realised.

In the 1990s two authors cast doubt over Lovelace’s contribution and whether she really was the first computer programmer. Allan Bromley and Bruce Collier claimed that Lovelace simply wrote up programmes that Babbage had created. Collier went as far as to call Lovelace ‘delusional’.

Others have made the argument that Lovelace derived an algorithm from a formula, i.e. Babbage provided the formula for calculating Bernculli numbers but Lovelace created the programme.

This is a clear example of cultural femicide through minimisation since Babbage himself credits Lovelace for the programme within his own writings. Furthermore, Babbage notes that Lovelace found an error in his calculations, which could also make her the first ‘debugger’. Despite this evidence Lovelace’s contribution is questioned, because she is a woman.

The Women that Science Forgot: Part 3 Maggie Aderin-Pocock

In this third part of the series (part 1 here) I’m going to introduce you to one of my women in science heroes – Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocockmaggie aderin-pocock. She is a space scientist and Engineer come Science Communicator, who recently took over presenting the BBC’s Sky at Night programme. I was lucky enough to meet Maggie when she came to UCLan recently and she is a bright, vibrant person. Maggie delivered an excellent keynote for us, which provided most of the material for this blog post.

Growing up Aderin-Pocock moved around a lot and so attended several different schools. She was inspired to become a space scientist when watching The Clangers as a three year old. At 14 she made her own telescope, after buying a cheap one that had terrible chromatic abboration (the image was distorted so that it looked like it was double exposed). She joined a club making her own telescope, not only was she the only girl there, she was also the only young person; the rest of the club were middle-aged men.

In her early career she worked in defense creating land to air missile detection systems and land mine detectors. She also worked on several projects at massive telescopes around the world. But Aderin-Pocock found her passion when she discovered science communication. Aderin-Pocock has worked with children from all across London, conducting several projects to increase interest in science, and she speaks passionately anout this work. Her success as a science communicator has been confirmed by her being chosen to take over on The Sky at Night when long time host Patrick Moore passed away.

When she visited UCLan I asked Maggie what she would want me to say about her and she told me two things:

Firstly: “You don’t need to be ‘clever’ to be a scientist”. Maggie has dyslexia and as a child this meant that she was in bottom sets at school. When she told a teacher that she wanted to be a scientist, the teacher told her to consider nursing as ‘that’s sciencey’. The teacher didn’t think Maggie could do science. Thank goodness she didn’t listen.

Secondly: What you do need to be a scientist is curiosity. If you are the sort of person who constantly asks ‘why?’ you are perfect for science. Scientist are constantly questioning and trying to figure things out, this need to understand drives them.

Meeting Maggie, just brought home to me how cultural femicide still operates. She is an articulate, bright and passionate person who gives engaging talks. She presents a TV show. And yet, she’s not as well known as Brian Cox.