Innovative women take home trophies

28 March 2006

The innovative nature of BCS members has landed them prizes at the recent Female Inventor of the Year 2006 (BFIIN) awards.

Megan Beynon Megan Beynon of IBM won first prize in the category 'Innovation in ITEC' with her invention that ensures web links always point to the intended content. Her work also earned her the title of runner-up female innovator of the year.

Mandy Chessell, who also works for IBM, topped another category, 'building capacity for innovation', for her large personal patent portfolio and work in mentoring to create an environment that encourages innovations.

In second place in 'Innovation in ITEC' was Ruth Woodward, director and founder of HT Consultants, who won the trophy for her technology that uses terahertz light to study skin cancer.

Kerstin Kleese-Van-Dam Kerstin Kleese-Van-Dam of the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC) was placed third in the ITEC category for her tool supporting effective management of scientific data.

An interesting connection between the two IBM winners is that Mandy is Megan’s mentor. Mandy looks after around ten mentees at any one time, as well as being a senior technical member of staff and master inventor at IBM. 'Mentoring is important to encourage and bring resources to innovation,' said Mandy.

Both Mandy and Megan are great believers in the importance of environment and mentoring in the innovation process and think that IBM's system of innovators and mentors make a large contribution to the growing of ideas.

Megan first thought of her prize-winning idea, named Peridot, when she was working on an internal content management system and realized how laborious it is to update web links.

'When your site links to an external site, the external site effectively becomes a part of your site, yet it displays content over which you have no control. Content can be altered and the links then take your users to whatever is now there,' she explained.

'Traditionally, the content at the end of links has to be checked manually, which is very labour intensive. However, Peridot detects any significant changes to content and if it has changed, it can locate another page with the original content, and update the link.'

She initially did some work in her own time to develop Peridot after which it was accepted as a three-month research project for student interns at IBM. Megan was seconded to give full-time support to the team. Peridot is already in IBM’s portfolio.

Ruth received her award for her PhD research on imaging skin cancer. Following the death of her grandmother due to breast cancer, Ruth was determined to apply her physics expertise to the medical industry and devised innovative analysis and techniques capable of differentiating between diseased and normal tissue.

Her prize also recognised her efforts in transforming her achievements to found her own company in October 2003. HT Consultants helps to bridge the gap between research, industry and commercialisation, and has helped research organisations and industry harness their potential in emerging areas of technology.

Two patents were filed on Ruth's innovative techniques, using Terahertz technology, a newly explored form of light. THz radiation lies between the infrared (thermal cameras) and microwave (mobile phone) region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The success of her research led to the commercialisation of imaging systems.

Kerstin was awarded a trophy for her and her team's work on tools that bring together research results from very different scientific methods on the same subject, enabling a much deeper understanding of the subject.

'We hope that the service, once adopted, will lead to faster scientific breakthroughs as well as encourage more collaboration between scientific groups from different backgrounds but with shared research interests,' said Kerstin, who is head of data management in the e-Science Centre at CCLRC. 'We are now focused on continuing our work in particular in the area of long-term preservation and re-use of scientific data.'

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