UCL Computer Science


London Hopper showcases women in computer science

20 June 2024

UCL welcomed researchers, distinguished academics and industry leaders to the London Hopper Colloquium to celebrate the work of women in computing.

A group of UCL Hopper participants standing on the stairs outside UCL CS building

The London Hopper 2024 was an uplifting and inspiring colloquium aimed at supporting female academic researchers who are building a career in computing. Attendees came from UCL and universities in London and across the UK, from Sussex to St Andrews. It was organised by UCL in collaboration with Cisco, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and BCS.

Like its big sister event in the US, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, the London Hopper pays homage to Grace Murray Hopper. Grace Hopper was a computer scientist, mathematician, and US Navy admiral who pioneered the programming language COBOL.

Highlights of the event

This year's impressive agenda included trailblazing research, career guidance, equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) tips, and networking. A highlight was the Research Spotlight competition, an opportunity for female postgraduates to present and be recognised for their research.

Opening discussions

The day opened with women executives discussing EDI initiatives. Angela Bates of Discover Financial Services and BCSWomen spoke of the power of communities to support women in tech. Ana Garcia-Sanchez shared Cisco's approach to EDI, which has earned the company much acclaim. Caitlin McAuley of EPSRC highlighted the Research Council's EDI action plan.

Notable talks

A number of talks followed. Hristina Palikareva, Software Engineering Technical Lead at Cisco, explained Cisco's flagship routing techniques for optimising video call placement.

Professor Yvonne Rogers, Director of UCL Interaction Centre and Deputy Head of UCL Computer Science, called for more ethically accountable computing to address society's pressing needs.

Professor Louise Brown of Nottingham University, BCSWomen, and the Society of Research Software Engineering covered her unexpected career path and job roles within research software engineering.

Professor Caroline Wardle of UCL Computer Science drew attention to the Athena Swan framework and the department's recent Gold award. Professor Mehrnoosh Sadrzadeh, also from UCL Computer Science, gave a brief history of London Hopper and Admiral Grace Murray Hopper.

Spotlight on research

Manon Flageat from Imperial College and Sreya Iyler of the University of Nottingham, two Spotlight winners from last year, spoke about developments in their respective research.

Then, it was on to the much-anticipated Spotlight competition. Participants had four minutes to present their postgrad research to the audience. The 15 presentations ranged from theoretical computer science to practical applications and showed how computing can tackle many of the challenges facing the world today.

The topics covered were incredibly varied. They included using machine learning to generate new materials, technology for animal welfare, and AI for spacecraft maintenance. Other presentations investigated the use of musical phrases in cardiotherapeutics, semantic segmentation for enhancing medical imaging, and gender disparities in automatic speech recognition technology.

Awards and recognition

The judges awarded Hannah Janmohamed from Imperial College the Speaker's Prize. Hannah said: "Attending Hopper's Colloquium was a fantastic experience, especially connecting with PhD students from all over the country. The Spotlight talks showcased an impressive range of diverse research, and hearing from the keynote speakers was incredibly inspiring as they highlighted various career trajectories."

Hend Elghazaly, representing Sheffield University, won the People's Choice Prize. Hend said: "I am thrilled to receive the People's Choice Award. This recognition motivates me to keep working hard and innovating in my research to develop fair speech technologies. Huge thanks to the organisers for this fantastic event. All the talks were truly inspiring and I am so pleased to have met such incredible women in the field."

The runner-up award went to Sophie Fischer of Oxford University: "It was fantastic to be able to attend this year's London Hopper Colloquium. The event showcased fascinating research from all areas of computer science and was also a great place to meet other women in computer science."

Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion

Congratulations to everyone who took part. It was a day to celebrate computing, women, and diversity. People of all genders were welcome to attend and participate.

Thank you to Professor Mehrnoosh Sadrzadeh, Dr Elaine Pimentel, Dr Estibaliz Fraca Santamaria, and Kiran Ahmed for organising the event. Thanks also to UCL Computer Science undergraduate student Morgane Ohlig, who dazzled us with her live illustrations. We are extremely grateful to BCS Academy of Computing, EPSRC, and Cisco for their generous support.