The Girl Who Loved Computers

In Big Science by Brian Koberlein2 Comments

One of the goals of Big Science is to tell the stories you don’t hear about scientific research. 

For example, when I was visiting the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA), I met a young woman who worked on computer security for the project’s data center. ALMA is a billion dollar facility, and it collects so much data that it has to be distributed to other systems in the United States and Europe. All of this data has to be kept secure, and the data system has to be running smoothly or else the project fails.

In talking to this woman, she wasn’t a genius professor from a prestigious university. She wasn’t even a scientist. She was just a girl who loved computers, went to college to study computer security, and got an internship to work on ALMA’s network. She took the internship because the work was interesting and she got to visit Chile. Her love of computers led to vital work on a billion dollar project.

On your typical science show her story is never told. She’s not an important scientist, and she doesn’t manage big equipment. But her story is fascinating, and it’s worth telling.

There’s a lot of talk about encouraging girls to keep their interest in STEM. We can do that by emphasizing the brilliant scientific discoveries women have made and continue to make. But we can also do that by showing the story of a girl who just loved computers, and who followed that love on a wonderful adventure.

There are lots of stories just like hers all over the world, and you can help us tell them.


  1. What does a person have to do to be a scientist? The methodology of security is a science. Because it is normally thought of as keys and locks, data security is much more and one has to study attack strategies as well as keep the data safe. In my mind that her a scientist! STEM is important for women to do. While she may not be a professor or a “big wig” she is doing important and necessary work. I spent the last ten years of my career working on network security. If nothing else, I appreciate her efforts! If she is keeping out of the data, when you don’t have permission then she is doing her job. If her systems keep you out, it means she has studied you and that makes her a scientist.

  2. A few typos: 1) In my mind that her SHOULD BE In my mind that makes her; 2) if she is keeping out of the data, SHOULD BE if she is keeping you out of the data,

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