Professor Helen Atkinson of the University of Leicester

First female president of engineering council appointed

The first female president of the Engineering Professors' Council in its 50-year history has been appointed.

University of Leicester's Professor Helen Atkinson FREng, head of the Mechanics of Materials Group in the Engineering Department, will take up her new post this week.

“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," Professor Atkinson said.

An internationally renowned engineer in the area of metallurgy, she has an outstanding record of achievement in industrially relevant research in the area of metals technology and manufacture.

Professor Atkinson, a mother-of-three, has already broken barriers for women in engineering with her election to a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2007, as one of only 29 women among more than 1,400 men.

The UK Resource Centre also named her last year as one of their Women of Outstanding Achievement for her leadership and inspiration in the fields of Science, Engineering and Technology (SET).

More women should be encouraged into the engineering profession which is traditionally seen as a man’s world, Professor Atkinson said.

“Engineering is a wonderful career for women to go into, with good earning power and potential for career progression," she said.

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

“We can’t function as a society without engineering and a lot of women don’t realise how intensely creative it is and how much it’s a people-orientated career.”

Professor Atkinson holds a first class degree in Metallurgy and Materials Science from Cambridge and worked for the UK Atomic Energy Authority at Harwell in Oxfordshire while obtaining her PhD on the transmission electron microscopy of grain growth in oxide scales from Imperial College of Science and Technology.

She will take over from outgoing president Professor Barry Clarke of the University of Leeds as President of the Engineering Professors' Council this week and will hold the post for two years.

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