Professor Nigel Gilbert CBE

Dr Professor Nigel Gilbert CBE holds a distinguished chair in Computational Social Science having been a Professor of Sociology at the University of Surrey. Nigel brings a fascinating insight into how IT an help us understand society. His prolific output includes Agent-based Models (Sage Publications 2008); a technique used to model behaviours such as clustering of populations, the dynamics of opinions in society and the operation of the housing market.   

Nigel is a polymath.  He wanted to do computer science at university but nobody was offering such a degree yet so he studied engineering at Cambridge with management studies thrown in, Nigel’s first program was for his father, a biophysical chemist, helping him understand through simulation how haemoglobin picks up and releases oxygen in the blood.  This around the time that Crick and Watson were building computer models (and note the parallels with Dennis Noble).  He was a lecturer in sociology at York University and joined the newly formed University of Surrey as part of a small sociology department in 1976.  He made a name for himself using a microcomputer to cut through the complexity of rules for social security benefits that were beyond human comprehension.  As a result the topic was  in the Alvey project. 

Dr Hayaatun Sillem, CBE

Dr Hayaatun Sillem says the value of education and the self-coaching mindset her parents instilled in her as she grew up in west London has been a guiding principle all her life. The desire to make a positive contribution to society has been another key goal.

 Both are values she is pursuing at the Royal Academy of Engineering, where she has been Chief Executive since 2018, leading a team of some 140 staff, and overseeing a budget of more than £50m.

In 2019, the Financial Times named Dr Sillem the 4th most influential woman in UK engineering, and this year Computer Weekly ranked her the 7th most influential woman in tech.

But with a mixed race background, and parents of modest means, her proudest achievement is having stuck with an internal voice of doubt and a sense of differentness. She is a leading voice on diversity and inclusion in and beyond engineering, and co-chaired the Hamilton Commission on improving representation of black people in UK motorsport with Sir Lewis Hamilton.

There is a “massive diversity deficit in engineering,” she says “And this really matters because engineering and technology are everywhere in our lives. The people who develop deliver, maintain and upgrade the products and services we all rely on every day are currently way too unrepresentative of the society they serve. And that is not good for us as a profession.” It is a balance she is striving to redress.

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