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Computers in Science

Part of Women In STEM Activities

Computers have become very important tools for us all. Scientists use them for lots of purposes. It can be for something simple like sending an email to another scientist, to use a piece of equipment such as a microscope or to do complex work that would be impossible to do themselves such as analysing big data sets.

For a computer to be able to do these jobs, they need to be told what to do. Scientists can create instructions for computers to help other scientists and to help people. This could be writing computer programs for scientists to use to store and/or study data. Scientists can create ways that computers can help people. This could be to speak on their behalf or to allow them to draw with their eyes. Scientists at the University of Dundee do some of this work.

Studying scientific data using computers

Suzanne Duce is a research scientist who uses a computer program called Jalview to study the materials inside our cells called DNA, RNA and proteins. Jalview was created by scientists in Dundee and is used by many more over the world to help them with their research. Suzanne creates training materials so that scientists know how to use Jalview properly.

You can now try out Jalview yourself with a specially created activity What virus is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic?. This activity suitable for secondary pupils.

If you enjoyed this activity, you could try out another called, Viewing DNA & RNA.

Using computers to help people

The University of Dundee is a world leader in supporting and enhancing interaction for people with disabilities which affect their way of communicating, for example if they can’t speak and also can’t use their hands to speak sign language. Through their work researchers develop a variety of technologies to help. The people who will use the technology are involved in the design and the testing. This makes sure that the technology will work for them.

JG Being Used in School By A Children
Nicole helps developing and testing new software which allows her to chat about her day at school. She can’t speak due to her cerebral palsy and controls her computer with a switch you can see next to her cheek, similar to the way Stephen Hawking controlled his computer.

Professor Annalu Waller leads the AAC Research group who does this work. (AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, take a look at the research group’s web site if you want to find out more.)

Labake Odushegun is a PhD student and business owner working in computing. She is studying for a PhD at the University of Dundee. She looking at new ways for people to use, and interact with modern technology.

Alongside her studying, she runs two companies. A web design agency and private security company, which provides security services to elderly people.

Labake taught herself web design and thinks the best way to learn new things is by getting stuck right in! She has created the following activity to introduce you to the basics of computer language. You will start with something simple - HTML. You can then get practicing using the link provided in the Web Design Worksheet.

Scientist Using A Computer Connected To A Microscope (University of Dundee)
Scientist Using A Computer Connected To A Microscope (credit - University of Dundee)
Dr Suzanne Duce
Dr Suzanne Duce, Research Scientist in Bioinformatics, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee.
Prof. Annalu Waller
Prof. Annalu Waller Professor and Head of Computing, School of Science and Engineering, University of Dundee
Labake Odushegun
Labake Odushegun is a PhD student in Computing, School of Science and Engineering, University of Dundee and business owner.
Web Design Worksheet
Web Design Worksheet (PDF)

This page is part of the Women In STEM Activities information.

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