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Katie Bouman: the woman behind the first black hole image

The first-ever image of a black hole was unveiled this week! But the image that captured the nation is of 29-year-old Dr Katie Bouman, the woman who made it all possible.

Katie Bouman was a PhD student in computer science and artificial intelligence at MIT when she created an algorithm that, this week, lead to an image of a black hole of the Messier 87 galaxy (some 55m light years from Earth!)

She shared a photo on Facebook of her sitting excitedly in her lab as the black hole image loaded on her laptop. “Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed,” she wrote.

Katie quickly pointed out that she was by no means solely responsible for the discovery. "No one algorithm or person made this image, it required the amazing talent of a team of scientists from around the globe and years of hard work to develop the instrument, data processing, imaging methods, and analysis techniques that were necessary to pull off this seemingly impossible feat."

Yet Katie's method of processing the data — which involved multiple algorithms with “different assumptions build into them” — was said to be instrumental.

According to Harvard's Black Hole Initiative, this project was the work of more than 200 scientists, with 40 of them being women!

“There are women involved in every single step of this amazing project,” said Sara Issaoun, a 24-year-old graduate student. “As a woman in STEM myself, it’s good to have role models out there who young girls and young boys can look up to.”

In male-dominated fields such as science and technology, simply reading about the work Katie and the other female scientists have done will inspire generations to come! Katie will be a role model for young girls everywhere.

Congratulations to Dr. Bouman and all the amazing scientists for their enormous contribution to the advancements of science and mankind.

Here’s to #WomenInSTEM!

Follow Katie on Instagram! You can watch Katie's TED Talk back in 2016 here.

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