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Women in Computer Science

  • Imperial College 180 Queen's Gate London, England, SW7 2RH United Kingdom (map)

The event was chaired by Saadia Zahidi, Head of Education, Gender and Work of World Economic Forum

The event was hosted by Maja Pantic, Professor of Affective and Behavioural Computing at the Department of Computing at Imperial College

The following speakers spoke about their journey into their careers:

Maxine Mackintosh: Co-founder and Director, One HealthTech, Data Science PhD student, UCL


Maxine is a PhD student at University College London where she is mining medical records for new predictors of dementia. Alongside this, she is the co-founder of One HealthTech (previously HealthTech Women) – a network which champions and supports underrepresented groups in health innovation, particularly women, to be the future leaders in healthcare. Her professional work has led her to the Royal Society, Roche, L’Oreal, Department for International Development, and NHS England. She is part of a number of communities and committees including the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers, the British Computer Society and the Institution of Engineering and Technology. She loves hackathons, fancy dress and being a Dementia Friend


Maxine’s talk covered her journey from why she chose to pursue traditional science to how the various “women-in-tech” initiatives changed her path to the world of Big Data. She presented what her day-to-day looks like, what it means to be a data scientist and why it’s one of the most creative jobs out there. She also shared her journey of setting up One HealthTech, a network to encourage more women to join the healthcare revolution of health technology - and both the joys and tribulations of doing a PhD whilst running an organisation.

Dr Sabine Hauert:Lecturer in Robotics, University of Bristol, President & Co-founder, Robohub


Sabine Hauert is Assistant Professor in Robotics at the University of Bristol in the UK. Her research focusses in designing swarms that work in large numbers (>1000), and at small scales (<1 cm). Profoundly cross-disciplinary, Sabine works between Engineering Mathematics, the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, and Life Sciences. Before joining the University of Bristol, Sabine engineered swarms of nanoparticles for cancer treatment at MIT, and deployed swarms of flying robots at EPFL.

Sabine is also President and Co-founder of, a non-profit dedicated to connecting the robotics community to the world. As an expert in science communication with 10 years of experience, Sabine is often invited to discuss the future of robotics and AI, including in the journal Nature, at the European Parliament, and at the Royal Society. Her work has been featured in mainstream media including BBC, CNN, The Guardian, The Economist, TEDx, WIRED, and New Scientist.


Swarm Intelligence allows large numbers of simple agents, following simple rules, to achieve complex tasks. We engineer swarms across scales, from trillions of nanoparticles for cancer treatment, to hundreds of robots for environmental monitoring. The challenge is to discover which individual actions give rise to desired swarm behaviours. To this end, we take inspiration from swarms in nature, use machine learning, or the power of the crowd. 

Dr Sharon Goldwater: University of Edinburgh School of Informatics, BCS Roger Needham Award 2016  


Sharon Goldwater is a Reader in the Institute for Language, Cognition and Computation at the University of Edinburgh's School of Informatics. She holds an MSc in Computer Science and a PhD in Linguistics from Brown University and spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University before moving to Edinburgh. Her research interests include unsupervised machine learning of language, computer modelling of language acquisition in children, and computational studies of language use. Dr Goldwater is the 2016 recipient of the Roger Needham Award from the British Computer Society for "distinguished research contribution in computer science by a UK-based researcher who has completed up to 10 years of post-doctoral research", and is chair-elect of the governing board for the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics. Outside of research, Dr Goldwater enjoys DIY, sewing, baking, andArgentine tango.


Computer processing of speech and language has advanced enormously in the last decade, with many people now using applications such as automatic translation, voice-activated search, and even language-enabled personal assistants. Yet these systems still lag far behind human capabilities, and the success they do have relies on machine learning methods that learn from very large quantities of human-annotated data (for example speech data with transcriptions or text labelled with syntactic parse trees). These resource-intensive methods mean that effective technology is available for only a tiny fraction of the world's 5000 or more languages, mainly those spoken in large rich countries.  Sharon presented her research that aims to solve this problem by developing computer algorithms that can learn and process language in a more human-like way. This research combines ideas from computer science and the study of human language development, and can potentially lead to advances in both areas. Sharon gave a  flavor of the issues involved: why languageis difficult, what infants are capable of, and what we need to think about when building computer learning systems. She also said a little bit about how she got started in this interdisciplinary research area.

Dr Holly Cummins: Technical Lead, IBM Bluemix Garage London


Holly Cummins is the technical lead of IBM’s Bluemix Garage London, where she helps customers across a range of industries unlock innovation using technology. Holly is a lifelong IBMer who has worked at the bottom of the stack making Java Virtual Machine garbage collectors go faster, at the top of the stack on mobile apps for customers, and in the middle of the stack writing the application servers which power the modern web. Before joining IBM Holly completed a doctorate in quantum computation. Holly has co-authored a book, Enterprise OSGi in Action, and speaks frequently at conferences around the world. She spends some of her spare time trying to do ridiculous things with the Internet of Things, hats, and cuddly balls. 


What's the point of computers? For Holly, she just loves making things - and computers allow her to make exciting things, and get paid for doing it. Some of the things she has built have solved real technical and business problems, and even changed lives; some of it she’s put together just to see if she could. Holly described some of the solutions she’s written for her employer, IBM, and their clients, such as the app for guiding a blind ultra-marathon runner in the desert. Holly also described some of the silly things she’s made in her spare time, like the throwable application server. She ended on describing the twisty path she’s taken to get to her current role, and some of the things she’s learned.