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Day 4: Mathematics - Evolution of Computing
1 - Introduction
Meet Steph and Dan, our hosts for the day, who will introduce you to the world of computing and how it has evolved over time with our team of experts from BT and the University of Cambridge:
2 - Evolution of Computing with Sam and Claudia
Photo of Dan McHugh
Dan (host): Now we know what we're going to be exploring, let me introduce you to our first industry experts, Sam and Claudia. They will be answering some of your questions about computing and how it's changed through the years.
Over to you Sam and Claudia...
Photo of Sam Cater
Photo of Sam Cater
Sam
Security Consultant and Research Manager, BT
Key qualifications: BSc., Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).
What does your job involve? My role has a high degree of consultancy across the business, mainly around Cybersecurity innovations. Current focuses include post-quantum security, novel SmartHub features, Smart Home integration and security, as well as patenting innovative concepts for BT.
How did you get into your current role? After completing my Apprenticeship in BT Security, I enjoyed a few managerial positions for several years before transferring to Research. My first role was presenting our own innovations and those of our partners in the Adastral Park Showcases. After some time there, I moved into customer testing and trials. Most recently I've moved into the Future Smart Infrastructure team where I work on a variety of topics ranging from Post-Quantum cryptography to next-generation SmartHubs.
What did you want to be when you were younger? A pilot. I'm currently studying and earning my private pilot's licence in my spare time, to fly as a hobby.
What do you do outside work? Outside of BT I'm a freelance consultant and board member for Innovate UK. My main hobbies include gaming, chess, tinkering with electronics and motorcycling.
Photo of Claudia Cristina
Photo of Claudia Cristina
Claudia
Research Manager – Smart infrastructure, BT
Key qualifications: BSc (Hons) in Computer Science.
What does your job involve? My job is to research new and upcoming technologies to make our lives easier and more efficient. My research is focused on the Internet of Things. I look into how we can make better use of our infrastructure by using sensor technology and doing analytics on the data the sensors retrieve. I provide technical expertise in IoT and edge computing subjects to our research and innovation projects and I help to bring concepts to life through building demonstrations to showcase and sell our inventions.
How did you get into your current role? I did a summer internship in the BT research team during my 2nd year at university. I loved it so much I came back and joined the Graduate Scheme. I have now been working at BT in research for almost 5 years.
What did you want to be when you were younger? I wanted to be a vet or anything that involved dogs really! But my love for technology was bigger.
What do you do outside work? I love to make things with my hands – mainly crafts or DIY. I am mostly an avid crocheter and cross stitcher. I like to take things apart to find out how they work, so it's great that I get to do that at work too!
Photo of Sam Cater
Sam: Thanks for watching our video, I hope you've enjoyed learning about the evolution of computing! We have had some questions submitted relating to this topic in the lead up to British Science Week which are answered below. However, if you have any questions, we'd love to hear from you. Please email stemexpert@bt.com. We also held a live Q&A session on the day, a recording of which can be seen below...
Questions and answers
Question:
How fast can computers communicate today and how does it compare to when computers first became a reality?
student profile
Photo of Claudia Cristina
Answer:
Back in the earliest days of computer labs, machines would communicate at speeds of 'bytes' or 'kilobytes', just enough to keep up with a fast typist. Fast forward to the 1990s and BT created a packet-switching backbone between our Research Labs in Ipswich and the central switching network in London. During the days of 'dial up' internet, this was around 56 Kilobytes a second meaning downloading a music file would take around 10 minutes! Broadband Internet was the evolution to dial-up where speeds grew and grew. Through the 2000s and 2010s, speeds jumped from 5 megabits, to 10, 20, 50, 80. The latest generation of Internet service is fibre-optic based, allowing speeds of hundreds of megabits and even gigabits to the premises. That's over 100 megabytes a second!
Question:
Who was the first computer programmer in the world?
student profile
Photo of Sam Cater
Answer:
Ada Lovelace became the first programmer in the 1840s. Ada was a female scientist and mathematician who believed that codes could be created for computers to handle letters and symbols along with numbers. She also designed a method for computers to repeat a series of instructions, this is now known as looping that is used in computers every day!
See more computing questions and answers...
Got a question? email stemexpert@bt.com
3 - Have a go activities
Photo of Steph Bally
Steph (host): Now it's your turn to have a go at some maths-based challenges, to help you understand how a computer thinks and works. You can download the activity pack to get step-by-step instructions...
Downward arrow
Download activity pack
4 - Career profiles
Photo of Dan McHugh
Dan (host): Computing is a massively broad area and can lead to a really exciting career and you might be surprised by the various different roles available within this space. Below we've pulled together some profiles of people from Adastral Park and across BT that work in this area. Take a look and discover how varied a career in this space could be.
Photo of Andrew Lord
Photo of Andrew Lord
Andrew
Senior Manager, Optical Networks Research, BT
Key qualifications: BA Physics
What does your job involve?  I lead a team of 10 people researching all aspects of optical fibre communications. Recently we have got involved in quantum communications and this involves very strange properties of atoms and photons, which can exist in two places at the same time.
How did you get into your current role? I joined BT in 1985 from Oxford University and have followed the optical fibre miracle pretty much from the start. After many years working on BT's current fibre network, I moved into research around 2010 and took on the leadership of BT's optical and, more recently, quantum research.
What did you want to be when you were younger? A classical guitar concert performer.
What do you do outside work? I am a Dad first and foremost. I love composing music, solving maths puzzles, playing GO, cooking and origami. I have been known to give concerts on my Renaissance lute.
Photo of Marco Menchetti
Photo of Marco Menchetti
Marco
Optical Networks, Research Specialist, BT
Key qualifications: BSc, MSc, PhD in Physics.
What does your job involve? My job is to understand the latest discoveries in quantum technology and how to apply those discoveries to our business. I work with Universities and other companies on atomic clocks, QKD and quantum sensors to bring the advantages of those technologies to BT customers.
How did you get into your current role? I joined BT after my PhD at the University of Birmingham, as I was interested to see how the research done in University would translate in the real world.
What did you want to be when you were younger? I've always wanted to be a scientist and understanding how things work has always fascinated me. I'm still working on my secret lab inside a volcano...
What do you do outside work? I like good food, board games, audiobooks and walks in nature. I recently completed a 5-day walk in the Apennine mountains between Bologna and Florence.
Photo of AJ Hey
Photo of AJ Hey
AJ
Applied Research Degree Apprentice, BT
Key qualifications: BTEC National Extended Diploma in IT and currently working towards a degree in Digital & Technology Solutions.
What does your job involve? I'm currently working on Digital Twins and creating a VR training environment for our field engineers.
How did you get into your current role? I've only just started my career, and did this by coming into BT as an apprentice. I applied straight from college!
What did you want to be when you were younger? When I was younger I wanted to be a therapist as I both loved literature and was very logical. I fell in love with coding and developing when I was around 16, not until college!
What do you do outside work? Outside of work I spend most of my time gaming or visiting my friends. A fun fact about me is that I can do many styles of dance, although I stopped classes once I relocated for my apprenticeship.
5 - University of Cambridge
Photo of Steph Bally
Steph (host): Meet Amelia from the University of Cambridge who will show you how supercomputers are helping scientists to unlock the mysteries of our Universe.
Over to you Amelia...
Photo of Amelia Drew
Photo of Amelia Drew
Dr Amelia Drew
Junior Research Fellow, Homerton College, University of Cambridge.
Key qualifications: Theoretical Physics PhD.
What does your job involve? I carry out research into theoretical cosmology and gravity, primarily structures called 'cosmic strings', using high performance computing. On a day to day basis, I am writing papers, running simulations and discussing new ideas with colleagues.
How did you get into your current role? During my undergraduate degree, I developed a particular interest in relativity and high energy physics. After my Masters, I decided to apply for a PhD in Theoretical Cosmology at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics in Cambridge. I joined the group in 2016, submitting my PhD in 2020, and have remained here for my first postdoctoral position.
What did you want to be when you were younger? I have always been mathematical and enjoyed science, so a career in science or similar has always appealed. On the other hand, I also considered becoming a classical violinist!
What do you do outside work? I am currently training for the Cambridge half marathon. I also enjoy yoga, reading, and listening to endless podcasts!
Photo of Amelia Drew
Amelia: I hope my video has inspired you to explore more about how supercomputers can help predict the future through mathematical modelling and simulations. We have had some questions submitted relating to this topic in the lead up to British Science Week which are answered below. However, if you have any questions, we'd love to hear from you. Please email stemexpert@bt.com.
Questions and answers
Question:
I want to get involved in coding - how important is understanding Maths?
Student profile
Photo of Amelia Drew
Answer:
Anyone can code and learning is very accessible. There are so many useful courses available for free online today which allow you to learn different coding skills, such as machine learning, web development, anything you would like. However, it is probably easier to pick up if you have a more logical way of thinking, so learning Maths at school is certainly very useful in that regard.
Question:
Where are the world's biggest supercomputers, and what kind of problems can they solve?
Student profile
Photo of Amelia Drew
Answer:
The world's largest supercomputer currently is in Japan, with five of the top ten in the United States, two in China and two in Europe (Italy & Germany). Among many other examples, the supercomputer in Japan has been used to research COVID by simulating the spread of droplets of breath in the air, as well as to simulate the effects of earthquakes and tsunamis using artificial intelligence.
Got a question? email stemexpert@bt.com
6 - Related STEM learning content
If you enjoyed this content, why don't you take a look at some of these other great resources around this topic below:
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An introduction to Quantum Key distribution (QKD). What are quantum keys and how can we use them?
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This short video explores how graphs are stored for use in algorithms and calculations.
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Day 5: STEM in Action - Robotics >