1 year later: Reunion of the 2018 Ingenious Women Scotland Cohort

A little bit over one year after the last 2018 Ingenious Women Scotland (IWS) weekend, Conni (one of the ingenious women) organised a reunion in Edinburgh. Although we had stayed in touch all this time through weekly emails, a slack channel and various smaller meet-ups, when she suggested a 2018 cohort reunion my email inbox got flooded by a lot of very excited emails wanting to contribute to the day. Although not everyone managed to attend, 13 ingenious women based in Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh made it to the reunion. We split the costs for the booking of the space and lunch, and everyone added some extra warmth to the day with various sweets and warm drinks.

Picture 1

The obligatory group picture at the end of the day.

The focus of the day was to catch-up and discuss what this community meant for us and how we would like to carry it forward.

We started the morning with a catch-up round, during which everyone had 10 minutes to explain what they had done since the last IWS weekend. We shared our successes, failures and the challenges we had faced or were facing. Change seemed to be a common denominator for the more significant events affecting our lives, in different contexts such as family, jobs, and places. To share further insights in what I mean with this, I want to summarise the main messages that I took from everyone’s stories. To everyone’s surprise: science is frustrating, and it is so almost by definition. This makes having a good work-life balance particularly important and perhaps necessary, to stay sound when the science is not going as expected. Due to the lack of permanent positions in academia, job and location changes are common and even required. However, rooting in new places requires time and that is not always possible when contracts are often no longer than 2 years. This leads to a vicious cycle that creates application professionals that are continuously challenged to balance their private lives. It seems like there is just one academic route with clear steps to follow from being a PhD to a professor, but other job options exist within science and in the academic context. Career progression might look different for different people, but the existing separation between academic and professional services does not fairly represent the value of all career paths. Within the academic and scientific environment, only excellence of individuals is celebrated, however, it is commonly a group effort that makes things possible, and single individuals do not get anywhere on their own. For example, the role of technicians or lab managers seems to be stigmatised and not valued as it should be for the importance their contributions, knowledge and experience have to the scientific outcomes. This is also true for other career choices such as editorial or outreach centred roles. Against this background, the role of mentors that can help individuals in their choices for career progression and the existence of a support network were identified as some very relevant tools to support individuals in laying out a career path that they feel comfortable with. However, as long as other career paths are not valued and celebrated in equal measure as individual excellence, individuals choosing these paths might not feel valued or comfortable with their choices. At the same time feeling valued by your peers and managers is key to stay motivated in your job. Despite the perks of the academic life, there were also a lot of achievements to celebrate: growing families, new jobs, successful publications and grant applications, and the taking on of new adventures.

After a lunch break to process all the news, we continued with an active listening workshop led by Katie. We went through some exercises that made me realise that we all unconsciously make assumptions and judgements when listening to others to some extent, and how difficult it is to keep your thoughts in order when someone is not listening to you. We then learned about the listening model and put it into practice. This showed me how challenging it is to listen to someone, asking open questions to fully understand what is the source of their problems or worries without trying to guide the conversation or advise on the topic. However, this was a useful exercise and a thought to keep in mind for conversations in and outside of work.

We then discussed the most significant change that IWS caused for us, where having a supportive network seemed to be the basis for most things that were discussed. The creation of a supportive network of colleagues in similar situations, helped raise an awareness and understanding of the struggles that these colleagues may be experiencing, making each of us put our own stories into perspective. This encouraged many to value their time and themselves more and follow new opportunities.

Finally, we discussed how to sustain the network, since it was clear that we all value the result of this programme and want it to keep having a positive impact on us, but also on other women in STEM. This involves keeping our weekly emails, informal and yearly meet-ups, but also trying to expand the network by connecting with past and future cohorts and uploading online profiles offering mentoring roles.

The day was over. I walked home exhausted from the day, but with a lot of new thoughts to process and with a warm feeling in my body, realising how lucky I am to be part of such a great community of ingenious women.

by Anna Garcia-Teruel

Schiehallion Adventure!

By Claire Fitton and Gabriele Matilionyte


Are your New Year’s resolutions still active? In case you are in need of some motivation, we thought we would share this inspiring story by two ladies from our 2018 IWS group, Claire Fitton and Gabriele Matilionyte, who climbed Schiehallion at the end of 2018!




We had a very chilled out night in a pub catching up on personal and professional news, discussing ingenious ways of how we are winning in life, listening to Irish live music, petting and trying to steal random dogs (me).. On Saturday morning we set off to conquer a Munro that was a 40min drive from Pitlochry. We chose Schiehallion because it is categorised as one of the easiest Munros to bag (not so true..). As we started driving we could already see this mighty mountain from far away. Claire and I just couldn’t stop laughing as we got closer to it – it was just there sticking out of all hills and it was obvious what we got ourselves into.

As you can see from photos, we conquered Schiehallion in phases of excitement, disbelief, denial, trust, encouragement, excitement and proudness. As we got to the entrance we were so excited to be hiking that big mountain. Literally 5mins into the hike I was giving up. I told Claire that this happens to me all the time – I am very over-ambitious and set incredibly high goals. At that point I was so upset and disappointed. But I cannot thank enough Claire for being amazing and encouraging me that we should keep on going and just see what we can achieve. We decided to do the hike in small steps – I had to catch my breath very often (lifters do not have stamina!). But after a certain stage into our hike I started believing in myself.  And 3hours later we were there – at the summit of Schiehallion! My first ever personal Munro and we did it for all of IWScot2018! It took me almost the entire week to recover from muscle pain but I am all hooked up now and I am definitely going try and bag my second Munro soon.




You can’t help but notice its exactly like the metaphors people use as motivation for life’s challenges; the task that seems so unachievable is your mountain, but taking it just one small step at a time, you surprise even yourself on what you can achieve! Using the support of others around you, learning to be proud of the small achievements that are mounting into a big achievement, you start to see the summit is in reach! But it’s a false summit and you have to keep pushing, and again, and again, but now you can’t stop until you get there because you’ve come so far, and eventually… your efforts are rewarded and you’ve conquered the mountain (or technically the munro)!! And like most of us ingenious women, we are guilty of not basking in our achievement at the top because it’s on to the next thing (or in this case getting out of the roaring winds at -5 degrees!).


But reflecting on it I think what an adventure and what an achievement! I’m so glad we did it, and more importantly I’m so glad we bought gloves before going up there!



Sticky floors, glass ceilings and Vote100

As you may be aware, 2018 marks 100 years since women in the UK were first given the vote (though not all of them, only women over the age of 30 – it would take another ten years until this was extended to all women over 21). This is being celebrated via the #Vote100 campaign.

The final rush to finish everything before the holidays is now in full swing, but if you can free up some time then there are two really interesting events coming up before the party season gets underway.  An event being held as part of a St Andrew’s Day at the University of Edinburgh this week is inviting anyone to go along and join a Wikipedia editathon to help record the achievements of the Scottish suffragettes. Another event run by Equate next week will focus on sticky floors and glass ceilings and how to manage them. Details of both events are below.

If you can’t escape the lab/ office/ field/ site/ library to attend an event then you may wish to follow the #Vote100 hashtag on Twitter instead.

Scotland’s suffragettes: a St. Andrew’s Day Wikipedia editathon for Vote100

When: 30th November, 1.30pm – 5.30pm

Organised by: Digital Scholarship Centre

Where: University of Edinburgh Main Library, 30 George Sq, Edinburgh


This event is part the 2018 celebration of one hundred years since the Representation of the People Act (1918) when women were finally given the right to vote. It is an opportunity to see archival material about Scotland’s suffragettes and a chance to learn about & celebrate the role these notable women have played in the campaign for Votes for Women through researching, writing & illustrating Wikipedia articles & timelines (full training is provided).


Sticky Floors and Glass Ceilings

Organised by: Equate

When: 4th December, 10am – 4pm

Where: Edinburgh Napier University, Craiglockhart Campus


There is a considerable body of evidence which shows that women can encounter structural barriers to their progression in the SET professions – the glass (or sometimes concrete) ceiling. This workshop will address these issues, help you to examine your abilities and leadership potential and consider your priorities. Open to all women in working in STEM and construction.



Inspirational, strong, badass women

Women in STEM have been trailblazing for centuries and their achievements include writing the first computer program (Ada Lovelace), discovering the structure of penicillin (Dorothy Hodgkin) and discovering pulsars (Jocelyn Bell Burnell).

Therefore, on #AdaLovelaceDay we thought we would share this brilliant video by Ingenious Woman and postdoctoral researcher Alejandra Aranceta (@aranceta) highlighting the amazing scientific breakthroughs of some of those badass women in STEM who experimented, discovered and developed before us. The video is based on the Beyond Curie project, a design project that focuses on women in STEM, by Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya.

The Enchantress of Numbers


“A new, a vast and powerful language is developed for the future use of analysis.”

A.A.L., 1843

The history of modern computing is filled with stories and Hollywood films about geniuses such as Alan Turing and enterprising pairs like the two Steves of Apple, but a century before any of these famous inventors were born, Ada Lovelace was burning the midnight oil to write the first ever computer program.

In a time when women were rarely given opportunities for a scientific education, Ada had the advantage of being born into an upper class family and her mother arranged for first class education for her daughter. Demonstrating a strong aptitude for mathematics early on, Ada subsequently developed an interest in machines, designing a steam powered flying machine at the age of twelve, 15 years before a similar design was patented by two engineers many years her senior. This interest in machines and mathematics was encouraged by her mother, who was also concerned that Ada might develop the madness exhibited by her father, Lord Byron, if she did not have an appropriate outlet or distraction. Byron left his family when Ada was one month old and died when she was eight; despite having an interest in her father’s poetry and life, Ada never saw him after he left.

Ada’s health was often poor, but she continued to explore mathematics and machines and was encouraged by her tutors, even if they worried sometimes that she studied too hard or thought certain mathematical problems might be beyond her;

“The very great tension of mind which they [maths problems] require is beyond the strength of a woman’s physical power of application.” – Augustus De Morgan (one of Ada’s tutors)

Ada proved him wrong.

Ada met Charles Babbage, an early pioneer of computing, in 1833, when she was 17 years old. They were introduced by the Scottish astronomer and mathematician Mary Somerville, Ada’s tutor and friend. Ada was fascinated by Babbage’s machines and worked with him on the “analytical engine”, a design for the first general purpose computer. The two became friends and Ada continued to work with Babbage on the engine. In 1842, she translated notes on one of Babbage’s lectures that were written by the Italian engineer Luigi Menabrea, expanding and correcting the document as she translated. Her additional notes on the lecture were three times longer than Menabrea’s original and in them Ada penned several computer programmes; the notes were published in Scientific Memoirs under her initials AAL in 1843 and are thought to be the first ever computer programs to be published.

Although the analytical engine was never built due to a lack of funding, the designs and work that Lovelace and Babbage pioneered influenced scientists and engineers of the 20th Century including Alan Turing, who used Lovelace’s notes when he was working at Bletchley Park in World War II. The US Department of Defense named the computer language, Ada, after Lovelace in 1980.

Ada Lovelace’s life was tragically cut short at the age of 36 when she died of cancer, but her legacy and place in history as the first programmer is now celebrated on Ada Lovelace day, an international event that celebrates the achievements of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This year, Ada Lovelace Day (#ALD2018) will be on 9th October and a range of events will be held all over the world. At the University of Edinburgh there will be short talks, an edit-a-thon, a data hackathon, an introduction to supercomputing and Women in STEM inspired cake decorating. If you would like to attend then there are further details here.


Further reading

Charman-Anderson, S (2015) A Passion For Science: Tales of Discovery and Invention. FindingAda, 2nd edition. Amazon

Fuegi, J, Francis, J, “Lovelace & Babbage and the creation of the 1843 ‘notes’”, Annals of the History of Computing, IEEE, vol.25, no.4, pp.16-26, Oct.-Dec. 2003. Link