Cool science gifts for the cool science kids

Image of child in spacesuit helmet with Dolly the sheep reflected in the backgroundWith the arrival of a Talk Science to Me baby this summer, we’re looking ahead this festive season to nurturing the next generation of science fans with some cool gifts.

Crowdsourced from friends, like a lot of parenting advice these days, here’s our list for keeping the kids (and adults too) fully occupied over the festive season.

(Many) days out with science

First up, from a new mom, our associate editor Roma Ilnyckyj recommends a family membership to a science museum. In Vancouver, BC, we’re spoiled for choice with excellent kid-friendly institutions like Science World, which is filled to the brim with interactive exhibits, as well as the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, which connects us with the natural world, and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, to blast us off among the stars. Or you may live close to London’s Natural History Museum or the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, which both allow free

Paving the way for Ada: Mary Fairfax Somerville

Mary Somerville's entry record at Kirkcaldy Gallery and Museum, Fife, ScotlandWe’ve covered Ada Lovelace Day on the Talk Science blog for the last couple of years. By now, dear reader, you should know all about the “Enchantress of Numbers,” as Charles Babbage referred to her, and why her achievements are so remarkable even today.

But who came before her—who paved the way?

And this is where I launch into another of my favourite themes: coincidences. It turns out that one of Ada’s teachers grew up only a few miles away from my childhood home, 200 years before me.

Meet Mary Fairfax Somerville (1780–1872), a fellow Scotswoman who grew up in Burntisland on the south coast of Fife. As Mary was a girl growing up in the late 18th century, her education was limited to only what was appropriate for her gender: needlework, social skills and very little else, since otherwise would have been wasteful.

Okay, Ada—what next? (2015 edition)

Ada Lovelace Day STEM Talk at Telus World of ScienceAda Lovelace Day has been and gone for another year, and all over the globe people marked the occasion with events focusing on women in STEM.

As with last year, my hometown of Vancouver was no different, with Telus World of Science presenting a celebration of women in STEM. As part of the Innovators Speakers Series in conjunction with Microsoft Canada, a sizable audience was treated to words of wisdom from five notable women working in STEM.

Although each of the five works in a different area of STEM, ranging from communications and computing industries to full-on academia, all acknowledged that something must be done to motivate women into STEM careers.

  • Janet Kennedy, president of Microsoft Canada, with 30 years’ experience in tech, encouraged us to embrace coding and take advantage of the rising employment trends in the industry. As well as answering future Canadian workforce needs, increasing the number of women in STEM careers improves diversity and has a

Celebrating Frances Oldham Kelsey for Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Byron aged 17Every year, Ada Lovelace Day rolls around, reminding the world that yes, we do need to reach out in support of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). To defend this assertion, this year I’m only putting forward two pieces of evidence: #timhunt and #shirtgate, both of which happened in the year since the last Ada Lovelace Day.

And with that justification, here’s my contribution, countering the seemingly ingrained misogyny within the world of STEM with my celebration of female contributions to science.

In 1960, Canadian pharmacist and physician Frances Oldham Kelsey was hired by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Washington, D.C., to review drug applications for licensing in the United States. Since Kelsey had experience in placental drug transfer, teratogens and pharmaceutical safety, it is perhaps fitting that one of the first drug approvals to land on her desk was Richardson-Merrell’s application for thalidomide.

Frances Oldham Kelsey - Drug Detective

Thalidomide, an immunomodulatory drug with effective sedative properties in

OK Ada—what next? @jennifergardy has some answers

lead slide shot from public workshopAs an antidote to all the women in STEM doom and gloom, Dr. Jennifer Gardy, one of our personal Ada Lovelace Day nominations, has some calls to positive action. “Focus on the positive,” she advised a packed audience at SFU’s Ada Lovelace workshop last month. “It will get better.”

Then she presented her observations, and explained her optimism.

Pulling student and faculty data from SFU’s website, Gardy pointed out that although traditional male-dominated hard science areas such as applied science fields are still disproportionately gender biased from grad students upwards, life sciences are approaching gender parity. And with historical data gleaned from yearbooks in the mid-sixties, she showed that this gender disparity was also the norm for life sciences way back then. Moreover, taking a peek at the PhDs awarded per subject and analyzing them on a percentage basis, even applied sciences such as physics are showing an increase in women gaining these higher degrees.

It will take time, but eventually the