Suffrage Science award for University of Glasgow professor

Published: 11 October 2016

The University of Glasgow’s Professor Muffy Calder is receiving an award from the Royal Society today at the launch of an initiative to celebrate women in Maths and Computing Science.

The University of Glasgow’s Professor Muffy Calder is receiving an award from the Royal Society today (Tuesday 11 October) at the launch of an initiative to celebrate women in Maths and Computing Science. As a new branch of the existing Suffrage Science scheme, and launched on Ada Lovelace Day, the award will help to encourage women into science, and to reach senior leadership roles.

Professor Muffy Calder discusses Suffrage Science and Computing Science

Women make up less than less than one in ten undergraduates studying Maths, and less than one in two studying Computing Science. Despite much effort, there has been little sign of improvement. In fact, the number of women studying Computing Science at the undergraduate level has been in decline since the 1980’s. And the more senior the research position, the fewer women there are.

Suffrage Science aims to make a concrete change. There are currently two sections, one for women in the Life Sciences, and one for those in Engineering and the Physical Sciences. This event launches a third specialism, for women in Maths and Computing. At the launch, 12 women will receive awards to celebrate their scientific achievements and ability to inspire others.

In addition to Professor Calder, the head of the University’s College of Science and Engineering, two more women with connections to the University of Glasgow will also receive recognition at the event, held at Bletchley Park. The University of Southampton’s Professor Wendy Hall holds an honorary degree from Glasgow and the University of Stirling’s Professor Carron Shankland was Prof Calder’s first PhD student.

As Professor of Formal Methods at the University, Professor Calder uses computer models to study systems with many interconnected parts.

Professor Calder said: “I’m pleased and proud to be one of the first five women to receive a Suffrage Science award for computing, and I’m thrilled that three of the five have connections to the University of Glasgow.

“Computing science is a fascinating, endlessly creative field. There’s so much you can think about in the bathtub and go and write a program in your own time, at two in the morning if you want.

“With the increasing ubiquity of computers around the world, computing science is becoming a fundamental science. I’d encourage young people to try programming for themselves and consider computing science as a future career.”

The awards themselves are pieces of jewellery, designed by students at the arts college Central Saint Martins-UAL, and inspired by science. One is a golden brooch punctured with holes that encode a secret message, reminiscent of the punctured tape once used to store computer data. The second, a silver bangle, also holds a secret. Engraved on the inside, and hidden beneath a layer of silver, is what many mathematicians consider the most beautiful equation in mathematics, Euler’s equation.

After two years, the 12 winners hand on their jewellery to a recipient of their choice, at an awards ceremony. This scientific “relay” creates an ever-expanding cohort of talented women with a connection, encouraging all to reach senior leadership roles. Handing on the Suffrage Science jewellery is a vote of confidence by one woman for another. This resonates with the Suffragette movement for votes for women, from which the scheme draws both its name and its inspiration.

Professor Peter Diggle, president of the Royal Statistical Society and chair of the Medical Research Council’s Strategic Skills Fellowships Panel, said: “The more initiatives we have to encourage women to consider careers in mathematics, statistics and computing, the better.”

Professor Andrew Blake, Director Alan Turing Institute, said: “This sounds like a great initiative. I wish you the very best for its success.”

The winners fall into four categories - mathematics, computing, international research and communications.


1 Prof Christl Donnelly          Imperial College London

2 Prof Jane Hutton                 University of Warwick

3 Prof Frances Kirwan         University of Oxford

4 Prof Sylvia Richardson     Medical Research Council, Biostatistics Unit

5 Prof Gwyneth Stallard      Open University



1 Prof Ann Blandford             University College London

2 Prof Muffy Calder OBE      University of Glasgow

3 Prof Leslie Goldberg         University of Oxford

4 Prof Wendy Hall DBE        University of Southampton

5 Prof Carron Shankland     University of Stirling


International Research

Prof Shafrira Goldwasser      Massachusetts Institute of Technology



Prof Celia Hoyles                     University of London

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First published: 11 October 2016

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