Insights on Ada Lovelace Day from a King’s student

Insights from Law student, Hannah

As part of Women in Science week, King’s held an Ada Lovelace Day Lecture entitled ‘Using statistical theory, epidemiology and clinical trials for public health impact’. The talk was given by Professor Deborah Ashby, Director of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, and she discussed her research interests as well as the challenges faced as a female in academia.

King’s Law student, Hannah, went along to this event and below she shares her insights on the talk and how her assumptions of women in science were challenged:

I had the pleasure of attending the Ada Lovelace Day Keynote Talk which was part of King’s Women in Science Week. It was a talk by Professor Deborah Ashby about using statistical theory, epidemiology and clinical trials for public health impact. Before the event I was slightly worried that I would not be able to follow the talk since I am a Law student and have no science background at all. This fear proved to be entirely unfounded as the event did not only teach me several important lessons but also left me feeling very inspired.

While I am sure that some of the scientific details in Professor Ashby’s lecture were lost on me, her concrete examples were understandable and emphasised important points for me.

Firstly, I was thoroughly impressed by the direct impact Professor Ashby’s work in statistics has had on various different communities. One example that particularly stood out to me was
a study she was involved in that confirmed the association of fibrosing colonopathy with high-strength pancreatic enzyme usage. This led to bans of harmful medication and thus
improved the treatment of cystic fibrosis. I had previously seen mathematics and statistics as a very theoretical discipline with little connection to real life. Professor Ashby’s examples completely changed my view on that. They also underlined the importance of statistics and data analysis as the foundation for sound decision making. I believe that this is a universal truth not limited to the sciences but applicable in many other contexts – especially since we are seeing an increasing polarisation of society.

In addition to the scientific content, Professor Ashby also incorporated details about her personal career journey into the lecture. Hearing about the hurdles she had to overcome as a
young mother and woman in science, her pragmatic approach to these challenges and the myriad of achievements she has accomplished was incredibly inspiring. I found it particularly
interesting when Professor Ashby talked about “Opportunity 2000”, the scheme aimed at promoting women, and which helped her secure her first position on a government committee.

Looking at her incredibly successful career and contributions to society reinforced my belief in the importance of women empowerment. Overall, I perceived Professor Ashby as a brilliant scientist who wants to use her skills and knowledge to make a positive impact. Additionally, I really enjoyed that she incorporated aspects of her personal life in the lecture –
even including pictures of her children (one as a baby and another one several years later when she was awarded the OBE). I felt inspired by both sides of her – especially since women are often told that a successful career and having a happy family are mutually exclusive.

In conclusion, I am confident in saying that Professor Ashby’s lecture was the perfect way for me to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day as it left me with a new perspective and incredibly inspired! I hope to take this inspiration with me as I embark on my future career.

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