As one of the first prominent women in mathematics, Ada Lovelace holds a special place in my heart. Like her, I am lucky enough to have discovered an affinity and talent for mathematics at a young age, and have been able to follow that passion throughout my career.
Mathematics began as a game for me. I remember going over to a neighbor's house at the age of five or six and asking for math puzzles, as another child might ask for toys to play with. At the same time, I was also driven to be creative; I loved painting and many of the visual arts, and I seriously considered becoming an artist. The "aha" moment came for me in college when I realized that I didn't have to choose between my two passions. I could, in fact, be creative with mathematics. Mathematics has allowed me to solve problems and create new worlds. Over the years, I've done research in physics, social sciences and biomedical sciences. And, like Ada, I found exciting connections between mathematics and computing (and even a love of algorithms). Just two years ago, I became the founding Managing Director of Microsoft Research New England -- a new lab that relates mathematics and computer science to other applied sciences. This has led to research in areas such as economics and social media; the development of new drug therapies for cancer; even energy conservation in the context of cloud computing. We've found that the same mathematical metaphors that allow us to understand online social networks can also be applied to understanding the gene regulatory networks of cancer.
It's my hope that many young women will discover their "inner Ada," and embrace a love of mathematics, using it to make new scientific breakthroughs and create amazing technologies. Mathematics and computer science are not just for geeks. Ada Lovelace was a fascinating woman and a pioneer in early math and programming. Many of the most amazing people I know today are women mathematicians and scientists. For my part, it's made for a phenomenal life and rewarding career. I hope that many young women will get the opportunity to live it and lead the way to the next generation of discoveries. I can't wait to see who the next "enchantress of numbers" will be.