The Royal Academy of Engineering Rooke Award for public promotion of engineering has been presented to Dr Larissa Suzuki, a technologist, entrepreneur and engineer who is Data and AI Practice Lead at Google Cloud and is working with Google internet evangelist Dr Vint Cerf to develop the Interplanetary Internet, as well as working on initiatives with University College London and Google Cloud on sustainability and smart cities. Dr Suzuki received her award at a special celebration in London on 13 July attended by the Academy’s Royal Fellow, HRH The Princess Royal.
At the age of 17, Larissa initiated an educational program at weekends in her native Brazil, teaching maths and computing to young people and their parents, supporting them in acquiring new skills to escape poverty. Every year, her programme had over 13,000 attendees from economically deprived backgrounds.
Her Masters project was to design algorithms to improve early detection of breast cancer by enhancing medical images obtained during mammography. Through her work, even women in remote areas of Brazil using older X-ray equipment could benefit from a system capable of increasing early detection of breast cancer by 15% and decreasing false positive cases by 66%.
After moving to the UK to pursue a PhD in computer science, amongst many initiatives, Larissa founded the UCL Society of Women Engineers and co-founded the London branch of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, bringing the joy of computer programming and engineering to thousands of women, minorities and young people. Throughout her 16+ years career, she has personally mentored over 400 women. Her initiatives have helped the Computer Department at UCL to receive the Athena Swan scheme’s Silver Award, and the Minerva Informatics Equality Award 2020.
Dr Suzuki has also drawn powerfully on her own personal experience of autism to champion disability inclusion and neurodiversity. She has created and supported initiatives for women in technology in all the industries she has worked in. As part of Google, she is an active member of the Disability Alliance, speaking openly about her autism and the need for companies to embrace neurodiversity and empathic leaders in their workforce. She has spoken to audiences of up to 6,000 people, and has contributed to the company’s disability inclusion training, which is aimed at promoting inclusion and demystifying the stereotypes surrounding people with disabilities, especially those who suffer from invisible neurodevelopmental disabilities.
Professor Sue Black OBE, Professor of Computer Science at Durham University, nominated Dr Suzuki for the Rooke Award. She says:
“I’ve known Dr Suzuki for many years now, she is a truly remarkable woman who has excelled not just in her own technical and entrepreneurial achievements but in contributing to wider society. Since 2003, alongside being a great engineer, she has devoted her life to developing innovative ways, notably in the use of digital technology, to help people realise their potential and overcome obstacles in their personal lives and careers.”
Dr Larissa Suzuki says:
“I am honoured to receive the 2021 Rooke Award from the Royal Academy of Engineering. To all the girls out there who dream about engineering as a profession - go for it - it is the most incredible job in the world. Receiving this award is a personal triumph, but I would also like to extend a thanks to those who have helped me along the way, from colleagues to my friends and family."
Notes for Editors
- The Rooke Award for the public promotion of engineering is awarded to an individual, small team or organisation who has contributed to the Academy's aims and work through their initiative in promoting engineering to the public. The award is named in honour of the late Sir Denis Rooke OM CBE FRS FREng, a former President of the Royal Academy of Engineering and one of the UK's most distinguished engineers. As Chairman of British Gas, his legacy was to build the UK's gas distribution network and unite the gas industry, making domestic gas a cheap and convenient fuel source for millions of people. He later became Chancellor of Loughborough University and served on many national advisory committees on both energy policy and education. He supported and championed public engagement, including the Year of Engineering Success held in 1997.
- For more information on Dr Larissa Suzuki’s work see https://larissasuzuki.com/
- The Royal Academy of Engineering is harnessing the power of engineering to build a sustainable society and an inclusive economy that works for everyone.
In collaboration with our Fellows and partners, we’re growing talent and developing skills for the future, driving innovation and building global partnerships, and influencing policy and engaging the public.
Together we’re working to tackle the greatest challenges of our age.
For more information please contact:
Jane Sutton at the Royal Academy of Engineering
T: +44 207 766 0636
E: Jane Sutton