#WomenInScience – Penny Johnston

Penny Jonston


Penny Johnston

Job title

PhD Student & Tutor

What course/subject did you study?

MSc – Big Data.

MSc – Engineering Management.

BEng(Hons) – Engineering Systems, Computing and Control.

Briefly describe what you do and your areas of interest in your particular field?

I am fascinated by how humans interrelate with the world around us.

I am currently studying computer vision and how best to encode images, retaining their visual information. The aim is for computers to delivered improved answers to questions about the world around us, with a focus on aiding people who are blind.

What got you interested in science/STEM?

I wanted to understand how things work.

Starting out as a Process Engineer one of my highlights was to undertake offshore oil rig training in Aberdeen, which involved escaping from an upside-down helicopter in a swimming pool and putting out fires at the airport. I progressed to be a Chartered Engineer and designed business systems in the manufacturing sector for companies such as Glaxo, Siemens and Nestle.

As a great believer in continuous learning, I am now updating my skillset with big data and AI.

There truly has never been a more interesting time to be involved in STEM.

In your opinion, what makes a scientist?

Curiosity, Logical thought, Problem solving and Creativity. The great scientists seek answers to key questions.

What makes you get up in the morning?


What excites you about your field/work?

Manipulation of the visual world. The creation of new human experiences such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

What is the coolest thing about your work/research?

Creating an interface to machines that humans can use intuitively.

If you could have dinner with 3 scientists (living or dead) who would you invite?

Li Fei-Fei , Elon Musk, Yoshua Bengio

What one future invention would you like to see become a reality?

An ethical technology that encourages human interaction.

In your opinion, what’s the most exciting problem in science/STEM currently facing humanity?

Encoding and quantifying human values into algorithms, underpinning any decision making carried out by computers.

Enabling people to retain their quality of life as they grow older.

If you didn’t pursue a career in science, what other line of work do you think you would have gone into?

Interior Design

Can you tell us a science joke?

There are 10 types of people in the world …

Those who understand binary, and those that don’t !

What words of advice do you have for young people thinking of a career in STEM?

Start now and be amazed daily.

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