Today is Ada Lovelace Day and the idea is to blog about women in technology who you admire or who have inspired you.
I have chosen the Cosmochemist/planetary scientist/meteoriticist Monica Grady who is currently based at the Open University but she inspired me when I met her at the natural history museum where she was in charge of meteoritics _ ie she looked after/organised research on the Uk’s meteorite collection including type specimens.
Heavily involved with the Uk’s Astrobiology Society she has helped pioneer this new subject, bringing it to the attention of the general public. As such she has written numeerous books that are greatly accessable to everybody making the science and technology involved sound fun and engaging.
This talent for inspiring the science bug in people has been extended to the television with appearances along side Patrick Moore and she gave the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in 2003, entitled A Voyage Through Space and Time.
She has been directly involved with ESA missions as well as being a world authority on exogeology. She is an expert on carbon and nitrogen isotopes in primative meteorites making her a leading international cosmo/geochemist.
Monica has worked closely with Ian Wright (her husband) and Colin Pilinger. She even has an asteroid named in her honor – Monicagrady asteroid (4731) which is really more than cool.
With very clear opinions on what science and space technology should and shouldn’t be used for – she activily encourages discuessions and debate agian bringing potential issues to the fore. In my time as a volenteer at the natural history museum she showed me that it was possible to have a career as a woman, a good career and still have a family.
But more importantly she showed me that my chosen career did exist (Astrobiolgy) when I had been informed during my undergraduate that it did not. That I could work towards it even with back operations and the like going.
Encouraging me to try the limits of my technical understanding and push my personal boundaries so that I would be able to do not just science but good science – of the need to talk to the people running the analytical equipment/ machines and to actually take note of what I was doing and not just follow blindly trusting to a ‘recipy’ someone had given me.
At a Darwin Centre event I watch a disillusioned teenage boy who thought that space science was a waste of time and that humans here and now on earth should get all of the money to feed them rather than it being used on research. Be brought round by Monica to the realisation that he himself could be part of what changed this world for the better. Showing him that he was not an helpless sheep, that he could do things – even if they were small like voting and writing to his MP. Just becuase he was young didn’t mean he couldn’t suceed and make the world a better place and this to me sums Monica up – she inspired and then empowered, she showed vested interest in all the students who crossed her path – reguardless of weather they were GCSE work experience dudes or collegues from other institutions.
May she continue to inspire many more.
p.s. don’t let her near a karyoke machine especially if it has Meatloaf on it – that is her one cough downside and its quiet scary 😉