By Clare Pain
Carolyn applies her computer science expertise and her clever use of data to save the lives of premature babies in intensive care. Far from “being stuck in a basement”, she says: “It can very much be a people-oriented job.”
She graduated from the University of Technology, Sydney, with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Computer Science) with Honours – but she had no idea that she’d end up working in health. At age 21, she started working in commerce, developing expertise in information systems for big businesses. She then started her own successful consultancy.
Carolyn’s career path moved towards health after she lost her first baby who had been born premature. Then Carolyn heard about a data problem in the field. Intensive care machines for premature babies flash up data every second, but it was only being recorded by hand once an hour – meaning only one out of 3600 pieces of data was being used.
Carolyn now works with hospitals worldwide to collect and interpret this wealth of data. By writing computer programs that look for patterns in babies’ heart rates, she’s made it possible to spot infections up to 24 hours earlier than before.
“Doctors, nurses and lawyers help people on a one-to-one basis,” she says. “People in computing can help from one to 1000.”
Carolyn believes more girls should study computer science. “To be able to create great solutions you need diversity in your team – women and men, and people from different cultures. There’s a chronic shortage of women in computing and there are lots of girls who are good at maths and logic who have great potential,” she says.
“I really enjoy what I do. I enjoy the challenges. I love exploring through the data.”
Author: Heather Catchpole
Heather co-founded Careers with STEM publisher Refraction Media. She loves storytelling, Asian food & dogs and has reported on science stories from live volcanoes and fossil digs