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International Women’s Day: celebrating Hughes Hall women in STEM

We place a spotlight on the work of inspirational Hughes Hall women. Our panellists are working in and studying STEM subjects, and will be discussing their careers and research (8th March, 7-8:15pm). You can watch the event recording below.


Dr Amita Ummadisingu (Research Associate)

Amita is a Swiss National Science Foundation Fellow at the Cavendish Laboratory. Her research interests are in sustainable energy technologies with focus on studying novel materials for opto-electronic applications which include solar cells, light emitting diodes (LEDs), photodetectors and lasers. She specializes in the formation of semiconductors from solutions for thin film devices. Her doctoral work at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) unravelled the formation of three-dimensional perovskite materials for the fabrication of highly efficient solar cells.

Her current project investigates the formation and opto-electronic properties of new two-dimensional perovskites. This highly interdisciplinary project combines aspects of Chemistry, Material Science and Physics to provide the vital foundation and toolkit for the design of highly efficient perovskite opto-electronic devices in the future. Beyond research, Amita is involved in outreach activities at the Cavendish Laboratory geared towards engaging schoolchildren in science.

Dr Claire Donnelly (Research Convenor)

Claire is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the Cavendish Laboratory. During her PhD at the ETH Zurich, which she completed in summer 2017, Claire focused on the fabrication and characterisation of three dimensional magnetic systems. In particular, in collaboration with colleagues at the Swiss Light Source, she has developed hard X-ray magnetic nanotomography, a technique which provides new possibilities for the mapping of three dimensional magnetic configurations within a variety of magnetic systems with nanoscale resolution. She is now continuing her research looking into three-dimensional magnetic nanostructures and their dynamics, research that could one day lead to new faster, more efficient technological devices.


Dr Kirsty Hooper (Research Associate)

Kirsty is a postdoctoral researcher in the field of biomedical science and is based in the Signalling department at the Babraham Institute. She interested in a particular signalling pathway known as autophagy, which promotes cellular survival by degrading and recycling superfluous components of the cell. Her PhD focused on the modulation of autophagy for the treatment of Crohn’s disease, a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease that is characterised by chronic gastrointestinal inflammation. Her current project, however, is delineating the effects of an autophagy-related pathway on the ageing immune system, with the aim of uncovering novel drug targets for the modulation of this pathway, which may be beneficial in the development of treatments for age-related disease. As a result of several key collaborative projects during her PhD and postdoc, including an NHS clinical study, she has become passionate about multidisciplinary research and driving translational research. She is also keen to disseminate science and research by continuing my involvement in public engagement activities.

Dr Livia Tomova (Henslow Research Fellow)

Livia is interested in how stress, loneliness and social isolation affect the brain and mind, especially during adolescence. Her PhD research at University of Vienna (completed in 2016) focused on the effects of acute stress on social cognition and the underlying brain processes. Her dissertation received the Austrian Award of Excellence for best Austrian Dissertations in 2016. Livia then completed 3 years of postdoctoral training in Cognitive Neuroscience at MIT investigating how deprivation of social needs affects the human brain. Livia was awarded a Henslow Research Fellowship at Hughes Hall in 2020 during which she aims to identify brain markers predicting vulnerability to the effects of isolation and loneliness in adolescents and young adults. She is also interested in investigating whether and how social media can fulfil social needs.

Dr Darshana Joshi (Alumna)

Darshana Joshi is the co-founder and CEO of VigyanShaala International.  Her enterprise, VigyanShaala is on a Mission to close the access, attainability and quality gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. With guided training and mentoring, VigyanShaala prepares youth from the most marginalised backgrounds for the technology-focused workforce of the future. Darshan holds a PhD in Physics from Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge. An experimental physicist with 8+ years of experience in interdisciplinary research, including over 4 years of experience in experimental soft matter and biophysics and 3+ years of experience in semiconductor physics, she was also the former president of the Graduate Union at the University of Cambridge.  For her doctoral work she was  awarded the prestigious Schlumberger Foundation’s Faculty for the Future Fellowship for women from developing countries and the Nehru Trust for Cambridge University fellowships.

A passionate Physicist, mentor and social entrepreneur, Dr Joshi is committed to recalibrating the gender balance in STEM disciplines. She is keenly interested in designing pedagogical tools to promote interdisciplinary thinking and problem solving among youth particularly addressing problems at the interface of Physics, Chemistry and Biological sciences. So far through VigyanShaala, they have engaged with 10,000+ Students from school, undergraduate levels and 500+ teachers with exciting hand-on experiments across the breadth of India and collaborated with partners in Sierra Leone and Nigeria for scaling their ideas.

Mahwish Arif (Doctoral Student)

Mahwish Arif is a student at Hughes Hall and first joined Cambridge as a Research Assistant within the Computer Architecture group at the Department of Computer Science and Technology. Her PhD research focuses on analysing existing and emerging security threats and develop a software framework that allows developers to quickly and efficiently develop security solutions against these attacks.

Prior to joining Cambridge, Mahwish was a researcher at the Data Science and Scalable Computing Centre at Queen’s University Belfast and also worked as an Embedded Systems Developer in Pakistan’s national space agency SUPARCO. She has worked on various research projects funded by the U.K EPSRC and European Commission and been interested in research areas including parallel and high-performance computing, binary translation, scalable data analytics, and runtime systems for multi-core architectures.  She was the recipient of prestigious Commonwealth Scholarship funded by the UK government to study for a Master’s degree in Computer Science at the University of Edinburgh.

Mahwish is also the chair of Women@CL, an initiative and positive action program at the Department of Computer Science and Technology, that aims to support women in computing research in their careers and encourage them to aspire to leadership positions, both in academia and industry.  In recognition of her contribution to the workings of the department, she was awarded Wiseman Prize for 2019-2020.

8 March 2021