The name Katie Bouman, alongside the photo of this young, charming computer scientist, went trending for a couple of days as people celebrated the first-ever image of a black hole through her efforts, alongside a team of brilliant scientists and engineers.
She led the development of an algorithm for creating the image of a black holes, known as the Continuous High-resolution Image Reconstruction using Patch priors (CHIRP).
After the hype of her feat, it didn’t take long when others started bullying her, expressing their frustration on her getting all the credit when it was a team effort, saying many negative things about her to the point of attacking her being a “cute girl” to go trending for such a historical scientific achievement.
A lot of things to be said here — from raising her for being a woman (a young, good-looking one at that) to the lack of research before judging information available in social media to the mere tactlessness and insensitivity of posting things without much thought.
In my own world called filmmaking, which may be far different from her scientific field, this is how I view her contribution to this scientific milestone. She is the visionary behind it. Perhaps, similar to the role of a director in a film. The idea came from her; the implementation led by her. This kind of work requires collaborative effort involving a lot of experts. The effort/contribution done should not be merely quantitative in nature. Not because a cinematographer only worked maybe 15 days in a project, while the editor was editing for 6 months (not necessarily everyday) means one is lesser than the other.
This young woman scientist deserves the credit. Stop the hate. Stop the bullying. You can always raise issues about it like civilized people, argue, debate, but you cannot remove the fact that she started the possibility. And that possibility is now a reality. A director in film is the captain of the ship. A director with a great team paves a path to success. In her own scientific domain, she paved that way. And just like with the rest of every filmmaking team, her team of scientists and tech experts deserves the accolades both as individuals and as a team.