Engineering Science Graduate receives International Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship

Sana Fathima, a second year DPhil student at the Department of Engineering Science (based at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering) and Hertford College, was recently awarded a 2011 Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The award of approximately £6,300 will support Sana’s travelling expenses to international conferences.

Sana FathimaThe Anita Borg Memorial Scholarships were established to honour the legacy of Dr Anita Borg (1949 – 2003) and her efforts to encourage women to pursue careers in computer science and technology. These scholarships encourage students to excel in their studies and become active role models and leaders. Dr Anita Borg ‘devoted her adult life to revolutionising the way we think about technology and dismantling barriers that keep women and minorities from entering computing and technology fields. She believed that technology affects all aspects of our economic, political, social and personal lives – a technology rebel with a cause!’

Before coming to Oxford in 2009, Sana studied at The College of New Jersey, USA, where she gained her biomedical engineering BSc in a joint BSc/MD medical programme. Her DPhil research project at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) in Oxford focuses on ‘atlas based classification of fetal ultra-sound, which relates to image standards of a baby’s brain at 20 weeks of pregnancy’.

Sana’s supervisor, Professor Alison Noble, said: “This is a prestigious scholarship and involves a very competitive process - very few women are selected every year. As part of the scholarship Google hosts a networking retreat at their Europe headquarters in Zurich, and Sana returned in June having gained valuable insights into the latest advances in technology. She also had the opportunity to meet with senior Google engineers, project leaders and other scholars. I am sure she will inspire other women to consider entering the exciting world at the interface of computer science and technology and medicine”.

Sana, who was born in India and grew up in the United States, has a passion to work in a developing country. When she finishes her DPhil she hopes to pursue a career with an NGO working in health innovation, fetal care and policy making.  She said: “This scholarship ensures that I’m part of an international network. I have been inspired by two great men: Professor Robert Langer, a pioneer in the field of biomedical engineering at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and Bill Gates who, through his Foundation, is helping developing countries by supporting biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and healthcare”.

She added “Interestingly, I’m working part-time on a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded project (Intergrowth-21st), as the database manager, at the IBME.  It involves the collection of ultra-sound clinical data from eight centres around the world, which is being used to develop new prescriptive fetal growth charts.  In the long run it is hoped that these new charts will be used to develop guidelines in developing world countries to improve pregnancy outcomes.

The Google Anita Borg Scholarship was first launched in 2004 when a group of Googlers decided to establish a programme that would honour the work of their friend and colleague, Dr Anita Borg.  In 2007, the programme expanded to Europe, the Middle East and Africa.  This year 400 entries from around the world were received for this region and 30 scholars selected for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Acknowledgements: Google website