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Case study: Rosalind Franklin Appathon

Home > Case Study Rosalind Franklin Appathon

Currently, cultural and institutional barriers mean women are all too often under-represented at the highest levels despite no apparent shortage of talent.

Empowering women to become leaders in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine) is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do and will make the UK more creative, competitive and prosperous.

Why apps?

Today, there are more mobile phones than people on the planet and over 100 billion app downloads a year.

Through the Rosalind Franklin Appathon, we aimed to harness this digital revolution to reach out to a much larger global audience than traditional women’s networking events, and challenge cultural stereotypes.

There is a growing movement in apps for social change but relatively few apps to empower and support women in STEMM, representing an opportunity for the UK to take a leading role.

What took place during the Appathon?

During the Rosalind Franklin Appathon, we invited teams and individuals from all backgrounds to take advantage of the telecommunications revolution to reach out to a global audience through apps, empower and recognise a new generation of women leaders, and change public perceptions of women in the digital space.

Our competition was split into two challenges:

Challenge 1: develop new mobile phone apps to empower women in STEMM

Challenge 2: recognise leading women in STEMM who have pioneered new apps for research, societal good and enterprise.

Who was invited to take part?

The competition was open to both women and men, from complete novices with a good idea, established women in STEMM groups looking to improve networking among their members, and seasoned app developers. We welcomed early stage ideas and finalists worked with mentors at IDEALondon to help develop their ideas into apps that make a difference.

What was the interest from the app world?

We had more than 170 applications from people across Belfast, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Oxford, Cambridge, and London.

Nominations for apps addressed a range of social, cultural and economic challenges, helping us identify and support the female role models who are making a difference through digital innovation.

The Prize and Tech Day

On 23 February 2016, more than 100 delegates gathered at Wayra UK, Telefonica O2’s startup accelerator, to hear some inspiring talks from our speakers and judges, watch pitches from the competition finalists and forge strong networks across the science and digital space.

The event opened with a talk from Professor Rachel McKendry, who led the Appathon, and was followed by a welcome address from UCL Provost Professor Michael Arthur, who spoke on UCL’s dedication to gender equality and wider diversity initiatives. We then heard a special guest talk from Rosalind Franklin’s sister Jenifer Glynn, who treated the audience to a very personal account of her sister’s life and work- a rare glimpse into the life of a remarkable scientist!

Next up were some talks from our judging panel. Baroness Martha Lane Fox highlighted the need and advantages of getting more women into tech and, her initiative to champion UK technological innovation and put women at the heart of the tech sector.

Google’s Andrew Eland demonstrated the role of advanced technology for the common good and Professor Dame Athene Donald gave a bold speech on why more needs to be done to facilitate women’s progression in leadership and STEMM roles.

The audience was shown video pitches from our app finalists and winners were announced.

Winners and runners-up

Challenge 1 winner: AMazing STEMM Trailblazers

Ahrani Logan and Brett Haase, founders of tech innovation company Peapodicity, came up with the idea of AMazing STEMM Trailblazers- a gaming app that features STEMM heroines and combines problem solving and critical thinking with STEMM knowledge acquisition.

The game is aimed at boys and girls to raise the profile of women in STEMM, creating role models, as well as challenging cultural stereotypes of what a “scientist” is at an early age.

Challenge 2 winner: eSexual Health

Chlamydia affects 200, 000 people a year in the UK.

Pam Sonnenberg, Reader in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at UCL, and her team developed the eSexual Health Clinic app. This web app enables a person testing for chlamydia to get their results, and care online, by following an automated clinical consultation, leading to collection of antibiotics from community pharmacies.

This automated, remote approach could improve uptake of testing, keeps people connected into care and eases the burden on traditional healthcare systems.

Challenge 1 runner-up: STEMM Role Models

Kirstie Whitaker, a Researcher in Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, led the international team behind STEMM Role Models- an app to improve the diversity of conference speakers by creating profiles of experts, the ability to tag with keywords and feature short endorsements.

With this app, they hope to counteract the conference culture of only using the same speakers over and over again- and typically these speakers are white males- and ensure young researchers have a diverse range of role models.



Challenge 2 runner-up: FindMe

In health and education, there is a significant focus on pre-school intervention in order to help young children with autism overcome severe challenges.

Sue Fletcher-Watson, Developmental Psychologist at University of Edinburgh, led in the development of the Findme, a research-based gaming app, which addresses two important social communication abilities: ‘Looking at People’ and ‘Following Social Cues’. By boosting their social interaction and language abilities at an early age, Findme enables them to reach their full potential.

See how it works here.

Learn more about the finalists:

We received so many great applications for both categories and these entries really shone through. Our judging panel were very impressed with the drive, innovation and creativity of the teams and we were excited to showcase their ideas at our Prize and Tech Day. 



Challenge 1 finalist: WESLinks

The Women's Engineering Society (WES) links women who work in engineering with volunteering opportunities. Currently this is done manually by email, but there is a need to get this information out quicker, and more efficiently.

Sarah Peers, Vice President of WES presents WESLinks, an app which will enable people to search for volunteering opportunities according to location, type, keywords, etc., allow organisations to upload their own volunteering opportunities and enable WES to evaluate the impact, creating a much more streamlined approach.

Challenge 1 finalist: EyeSTEMM

Many women still struggle to understand how to translate their interest in STEMM into the many hundreds of diverse career opportunities out there.

This is where EyeSTEMM comes in. Conceived by UCL scientists Jennifer Rohn and Adam Giangreco, the EyeSTEMM app allows students to learn more about STEMM careers in a fun and supportive way. A bit like Instagram, EyeSTEMM takes photographic input, based on the interests of its young users, to suggest potential STEMM career options, provide more information about their options and generate inspirational content.

Challenge 1 finalist: Docrrates

Clinical shadowing is essential to progress in your medical career but women in this space often lack female role models, which can discourage and hinder them from entering traditional male-dominated specialities- less than 10% of surgeons are women, even though the ratio is 50:50 at medical school.

Enter Doccrates- the brainchild of UCL medical students Dina Radenkovic and Stefan Mitrasinovicl This app lets female medical students connect with female leaders in medicine and biomedical research in order to create opportunities for shadowing and placement projects.

Challenge 1 finalist: HATCH

Despite advances, women are still more likely to be restricted by caring responsibilities, meaning that they regularly miss out on academic and other networking events, which has an impact on their career trajectories.

Elaine Farrell and Evi Chatzipanagiotidou, historians at Queen's University Belfast, came up with HATCH, a fun, interactive social media app allowing academics and professionals, including women in STEMM, to locate suitable partners with whom to “hatch” research grants and projects, publications, conferences, and other endeavours in in their own time.



Challenge 2 finalist: Drink Less

How much alcohol do you consume in a typical week?

Susan Michie, Professor of Health Psychology at UCL, and her team have developed a new type of app to tackle excessive alcohol consumption, a major societal and public health challenge.

This is the first app that uses evidence and theory from the fields of behavioural science and addiction to help support users in reducing their alcohol consumption. Try it here.



Challenge 2 finalist: Swave

Do you have much money saved up for a rainy day? If the answer is no, you're not alone- over 50% of the UK population have zero savings.

Kristina Bordas co-founded the Swave app, the actionable nudge to your smartphone to help you save little and often towards life-changing financial goals. They don't use budgets, but look at your existing habits to encourage new savings behaviours.

Give it a go here.



Challenge 2 finalist: Feedfinder

According to Public Health England, one third of women shy away from breastfeeding in public for fear of disapproval.

Madeline Balaam, Lecturer on Interaction Design at Newcastle University, created Feedfinder as a direct response to this anxiety- a free mobile app that enables women to find, review and share places and experiences of public breastfeeding. Through community support more women will feel comfortable breastfeeding in public, helping to challenge cultural barriers and social stigma.

Download it here.



Challenge 2 finalist: Micro:bit

In our increasingly digital world, programming is becoming an essential skill to ensure the UK stay ahead of technological innovation.

Enter the micro:bit- a small programmable hardware device for every year 7 child in the UK- and an Android app, which allows children to programme the micro:bit remotely from their mobile phone.

Mythri Venugopal, Senior Engineer at Samsung, was tasked with ensuring seamless connectivity between the two interfaces so that users can truly programme-on-the-go.


  • Baroness Martha Lane Fox
  • Andrew Eland (Google)
  • Professor Dame Athene Donald (Cambridge)
  • Dr Alastair Moore (UCL Enterprise)
  • Professor Rachel McKendry (UCL)

Organising committee:

  • Kailey Nolan (UCL
  • Ruth Davis (UCL Enterprise)
  • Dr Alastair Moore (UCL Enterprise)
  • Harriet Jones (Athena Swan, UCL)
  • Professor Rachel McKendry (UCL)