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helen-atkinson-smaller

Leicester Engineer Is First Ever Woman To Become President Of The Engineering Professors’ Council

University of Leicester engineer, Professor Helen Atkinson FREng, reaches new heights in her career on 12th April when she becomes the first ever woman President of the Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC).

A woman in what, until less than a generation ago, was thought of as a ‘man’s world’, Helen is used to breaking stereotypes. In 2007 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, at that time one of only 29 women among more than 1400 men.

One of a select group of women Professors of Mechanical Engineering (there are probably fewer than twenty in the UK, two of them at Leicester), she is an internationally renowned engineer in the area of metallurgy with an outstanding record of achievement in industrially relevant research in the area of metals technology and manufacture.

In 2010 Helen was named as one of the UK Resource Centre’s Women of Outstanding Achievement for her leadership and inspiration in the fields of Science, Engineering and Technology (SET).

Yet Professor Helen Atkinson has combined her high-flying career with a home life that involves caring for three children. She has achieved this with support from both family and employers.

She commented:   “I think it’s very important for employer and employee to take the long view, so that women employees don’t ‘leak from the pipeline’ as families come along. 
“Sometimes it needs a little lateral thinking and both sides need to be reasonable, but the employer can hold on to someone who is immensely valuable to the company. “Also, part-time employees often give incredibly good service because they’re so focussed on giving a good deal.   There’s benefit on both sides.”

She is passionate about engineering education and its quality, and attracting more women into the profession, which she sees as offering them good earning power and potential for career progression in a field that is highly relevant to our daily lives.

“Engineering is behind everything our life depends on – hospital equipment, mobile phones, laptop computers and the systems that run buildings and save energy. 

“A lot of women don’t realise how intensely creative it is and how much it’s a people-orientated career.”

Her own interest in science manifested itself from an early age and – another couple of ‘firsts’ - she was the first member of her family to go to university, graduating from Girton College, Cambridge with a first class degree in Metallurgy and Materials Science.After Cambridge, she worked with the UK Atomic Energy Authority at Harwell in Oxfordshire, where she gained a PhD. Helen’s first university post was with Sheffield City Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University) after which she moved to Sheffield University, where she established a leading reputation in the area of semi-solid processing of metallic alloys.

 

In 2002 Helen was appointed to a Chair in Metals Processing in the Department of Engineering at the University of Leicester and is currently the Head of the Mechanics of Materials Research Group.

She is also a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and a Fellow of the Institution of Materials, Minerals and Mining.

In 2007 she led a national study on behalf of the Engineering Professors’ Council and the then Engineering Technology Board on the costs of undergraduate engineering education which gained wide publicity. The study showed that there was increasing financial pressure on engineering university departments across the UK, with the pressure being redoubled by the need for departments to constantly innovate to ensure that what engineers are teaching is fully up to date with evolving technology and social and environmental needs.

For any girls at school who still think of Engineering as a solitary job working on heavy plant, she cites her own work over the past few days.   “I’ve had a discussion with a surgeon about how an operation could be done using as mechanical device,” she said. 

“Then I went away and talked to other people about how to make this work in the confined space of a particular part of the human body. The following day I was working on a proposal to bid for some funding on how to improve body armour both for the police and for soldiers.  That’s engineering at its best, applying creativity to something that will make human life better.”

Speaking of her delight at being elected President of the EPC, Professor Atkinson commented: “I feel incredibly honoured and privileged to be elected to serve for two years as President of the EPC at a critical time for engineering in higher education in the UK.”

The out-going President, Professor Barry Clarke of the University of Leeds commented:  “I am very pleased to be passing on the baton of leading the Engineering Professors Council to Professor Helen Atkinson.  Not only will she be the first women President since the EPC was formed over fifty years ago, but Helen is also an eminent engineer who has shown through her work in a variety of sectors that she is true leader of engineering and that leadership is essential in these challenging times.”

Membership of the EPC is open to Engineering Professors and Heads of Engineering Departments in all UK Universities.  All branches of engineering are represented within the membership. There are currently over 1400 members in nearly 90 universities and university institutions (virtually all universities which teach engineering are represented). Professor Atkinson will take over from Professor Barry Clarke as President at the Congress in April 2011 and will hold the post for two years.

 

Leicester Engineer Is First Ever Woman To Become President Of The Engineering Professors’ Council

University of Leicester engineer, Professor Helen Atkinson FREng, reaches new heights in her career on 12th April when she becomes the first ever woman President of the Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC).

A woman in what, until less than a generation ago, was thought of as a ‘man’s world’, Helen is used to breaking stereotypes. In 2007 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, at that time one of only 29 women among more than 1400 men.

One of a select group of women Professors of Mechanical Engineering (there are probably fewer than twenty in the UK, two of them at Leicester), she is an internationally renowned engineer in the area of metallurgy with an outstanding record of achievement in industrially relevant research in the area of metals technology and manufacture.

In 2010 Helen was named as one of the UK Resource Centre’s Women of Outstanding Achievement for her leadership and inspiration in the fields of Science, Engineering and Technology (SET).

Yet Professor Helen Atkinson has combined her high-flying career with a home life that involves caring for three children. She has achieved this with support from both family and employers.

She commented:   “I think it’s very important for employer and employee to take the long view, so that women employees don’t ‘leak from the pipeline’ as families come along. 
“Sometimes it needs a little lateral thinking and both sides need to be reasonable, but the employer can hold on to someone who is immensely valuable to the company. “Also, part-time employees often give incredibly good service because they’re so focussed on giving a good deal.   There’s benefit on both sides.”

She is passionate about engineering education and its quality, and attracting more women into the profession, which she sees as offering them good earning power and potential for career progression in a field that is highly relevant to our daily lives.

“Engineering is behind everything our life depends on – hospital equipment, mobile phones, laptop computers and the systems that run buildings and save energy. 

“A lot of women don’t realise how intensely creative it is and how much it’s a people-orientated career.”

Her own interest in science manifested itself from an early age and – another couple of ‘firsts’ - she was the first member of her family to go to university, graduating from Girton College, Cambridge with a first class degree in Metallurgy and Materials Science.After Cambridge, she worked with the UK Atomic Energy Authority at Harwell in Oxfordshire, where she gained a PhD. Helen’s first university post was with Sheffield City Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University) after which she moved to Sheffield University, where she established a leading reputation in the area of semi-solid processing of metallic alloys.

 

In 2002 Helen was appointed to a Chair in Metals Processing in the Department of Engineering at the University of Leicester and is currently the Head of the Mechanics of Materials Research Group.

She is also a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and a Fellow of the Institution of Materials, Minerals and Mining.