Sisterhood Agenda

An Iconic Woman Of Science: Meet Katie Bouman

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April 10, 2019, for the first time, we now have the first real image of the black hole and that’s thanks to Dr. Katie Bouman, the woman behind the algorithm that made the impossible possible.

Meet Katie Bouman, a 29-year-old computer scientist who designed an algorithm that helped make the world’s first Image of the black hole.

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

Dr. Bouman was a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) when she created the algorithm, three years ago.

She led a team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the MIT Haystack Observatory.

Researchers gathered astronomical data to create the image of a black hole.

Through Bouman’s algorithm, that data was combed through to create a comprehensible picture.

Dr. Bouman was one of those who spent years testing those algorithms.

After the release of the Image of the Black Hole, Dr. Bouman was an instant sensation. Everyone was talking about her. She will be remembered alongside other legends of Science.

A little background on the black hole – it measures 40 billion km across or three million times the earth’s size or 6 billion times bigger than the Sun. Larger than the entire solar system.

How did Dr. Bouman’s algorithm create the image?

Dr. Bouman with her fellow researchers developed a series of methods or algorithms that converts telescopic data into photos shared by the media.

Using interferometry, a network of eight telescopes captured the black hole.  All the raw data was stored on hard drives. It was Dr. Bouman’s method of processing the data that was instrumental to create the image. She leads the testing process where they applied a series of different assumptions to recover a photo from the said data.

The majority of Bouman’s co-workers on the Event Horizon Telescope team were men. She has mentioned in her interviews that it was a team effort. Nevertheless, it makes her a role model for young girls to not be intimated when compared to male co-workers.

Studies reveal that only 30% of researchers are women. This is also an inspiration for young women who have second thoughts in pursuing a difficult career. This proves that no matter how impossible you think it is, you can make it.

Dr Bouman is passionate about coming up with ways to measuring things that are invisible which made her a perfect candidate to create the first image of the black hole.

She is an inspiration to all the women worldwide that they can reach the highest levels of scientific endeavor.

Fifty years ago a woman put a man on the moon.

Margaret Hamilton, a computer scientist and a systems engineer developed onboard flight software for the Apollo space program. She was the Director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory.

Who would have thought that two legendary women, fifty years apart will bring this amazing gift to humanity? Life is really unpredictable. One day you are a student; tomorrow you could be changing the world.

If you have failed many times, get back up a million times.  Failure is inevitable but it should not have the last say.  If they can do it, so can you. There’s nothing wrong with striving for greatness.

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