Four academics named in Top 50 Women in Engineering

Our WE50 winners (left to right): Dr Dipa Roy; Dr Katherine Dunn; Dr Karen Donaldson; Dr Tayebeh Ameri
Our WE50 winners (left to right): Dr Dipa Roy; Dr Katherine Dunn; Dr Karen Donaldson; Dr Tayebeh Ameri

Four academics from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering have today been named in the Top 50 Women in Engineering by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES).

Dr Dipa Roy, Dr Katherine Dunn, Dr Karen Donaldson and Dr Tayebeh Ameri were each selected to win the prestigious WE50 award, as part of an annual initiative run by WES to recognise outstanding achievements by women in engineering.

This year the University of Edinburgh has more staff than any other university on the Top 50 list.

The awards were announced to coincide with International Women in Engineering Day (Wednesday 23 June) – an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the exciting career opportunities available to the next generation in this industry.

Every year the awards have a particular theme, and this year’s awards celebrates Engineering Heroes in recognition of “the best, brightest and bravest women in engineering, who recognise a problem, then dare to be part of the solution; who undertake everyday ‘heroics’ as much as emergency ones.”

Find out more about our winners.

Dr Dipa Roy

Dr Dipa Roy began her academic career as Lecturer in the Department of Polymer Science and Technology, University of Calcutta (2005-2011) and worked as a Research Fellow at the University of Limerick’s Irish Centre for Composites Research before joining the School of Engineering at Edinburgh as a Lecturer in Composite Materials and Processing in 2017.

Dipa’s research seeks to tackle the climate crisis by focussing on the development of sustainable biocomposites and recyclable thermoplastic composites. During her time at Edinburgh, Dipa has pioneered the development of sustainable materials including through the School’s Composites Research Group. While at Edinburgh, Dipa has been lead investigator on an EPSRC-funded feasibility study, investigating the use of novel reactive thermoplastics (CIMCOMP – Future Composites Manufacturing Research Hub) and is leading research on the RenewPLAST project for the Centre for Advanced Materials for Renewable Energy Generation (CAMREG) – developing ways to turn plastic waste into high-value composite materials.

Dipa was nominated for the WE50 award by James Maguire, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the School of Engineering, who commented, “As a researcher, Dipa is dedicated, meticulous, and truly an expert in our field. As an educator, she is open and encouraging to all. As a woman in STEM, she is an unassuming leader and a supervisor for four of the eight female PhD students in our research group, not to mention numerous undergraduate students.

“Over the last six months, I have had the honour of working closely with Dipa, and it has been an absolute pleasure. She is kind and considerate, and has guided me in my work, while giving me freedom to develop my own career. Dipa is a very modest person, so I do not know if she would ever nominate herself for this, but I feel she is really deserving of recognition as one of the ‘quiet’ heroes of engineering.”

Dr Katherine Dunn

Dr Katherine Dunn completed her doctorate at the University of Oxford in 2014 and worked as a Research Associate at the University of York before joining the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering as a Lecturer in 2017. Her research involves using re-engineered biological molecules as building blocks in new technologies. She is currently working on life-saving diagnostics for diseases such as cancer, ground-breaking tools for synthetic biology and new bio-inspired paradigms for net zero electricity generation and energy storage.

Katherine is committed to inspiring the next generation of engineers and has taught a wide range of subjects spanning physics, engineering, biology, nanotechnology, mathematics and industry matters. During her first year at Edinburgh, she proposed a new course in 'Bio-Inspired Engineering' which has since received multiple nominations in the student-led Teaching Awards.

Katherine actively supports other members of our academic community, mentoring staff, providing pastoral support for 35 undergraduates and supervising three innovative PhD students.

In March 2020, Katherine initiated a programme of activities to engineer solutions to Covid-19 challenges. Recognising urgent problems caused by shortages of PPE, she immediately arranged donation of the School’s existing stocks to the NHS, and over subsequent weeks, coordinated a 30-person team of volunteers who manufactured nearly 12,000 face shields for key workers. One GP commented: “The face shields received from the University are vital in protecting staff and in turn, securing vital services across Midlothian.”

Katherine also catalysed the formation of another team that studied the efficacy of a range of face coverings in potentially limiting the spread of Covid-19. The project led to a published paper and international news coverage in over 20 countries. Separately, she advised colleagues on potential solutions for shortages of plasticware for Covid-19 testing, and established a project about digital tools for production of customised pandemic-related hardware. Katherine was nominated for the ‘Engineering Hero’ award by colleague Dr Daniel Orejon Mantecon.

Dr Karen Donaldson

Dr Karen Donaldson is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the School’s Soft Systems Research Group, which uses bio-inspired engineering to tackle society’s challenges. She is currently working on the ‘Connect-R’ project – developing an industrial-scale self-building modular robot to provide access to worksites in hazardous environments such as nuclear power stations.

Karen is a physicist by training and has a keen interest in space technologies. She completed an undergraduate degree in Physics, an MSc in High Power Radio Frequency Science and Engineering, and a PhD in Space Beam-Wave Interaction Physics at the University of Strathclyde.

Karen is also a tutor, STEM ambassador in schools, and co-founder and trustee of the Everlasting Foodbank – a foodbank, cafe and kids club to support those in need. 

Karen was nominated by Dr Craig R Donaldson, who said, “This past year Karen has worked with colleagues to fight Covid-19 by utilising their engineering expertise, from designing robotics for nuclear decommissioning to making custom face masks for doctors and healthcare specialists. At the height of the pandemic she was on-site at hospitals to do fit-testing of the masks on healthcare workers. Her work in this area is a real inspiration.”

Karen commented, “I am overjoyed to have won, especially in this year’s category. I love being a scientist and an engineer. I get so much satisfaction and fulfilment from my job and feel extremely fortunate to be in such a position. To be recognised for the work I have done makes me feel particularly grateful.

“Working in academia is unique, I am always doing or learning something new. I particularly enjoy being able to apply this knowledge to provide solutions to engineering issues of great importance. I didn’t always find school or university easy, so it is wonderful to now be able to teach and mentor students or help the younger generation follow their ambitions in STEM.”

Dr Tayebeh Ameri

Dr Tayebeh Ameri joined the University of Edinburgh as a Senior Lecturer in the Institute for Materials and Processes, as part of the Chemical Engineering discipline, in late 2020. She conducted her PhD research on organic tandem solar cells with Konarka GmbH Austria, gaining her PhD from the Johannes Kepler University Linz, in 2010. She continued her research career in Germany at the universities of Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and Munich (LMU).

Tayebeh’s research focuses on the development of smart and advanced materials for the emerging field of printed optoelectronics, in particular photovoltaics for use in the energy industry and photodetector technologies for use in healthcare.

Tayebeh has authored over 120 peer-reviewed and widely cited publications and book chapters and has received several prestigious awards including Christiane-Nüsslein-Volhard-Stiftung, Wolfgang Finkelnburg, and Arnold Sommerfeld Awards. In November 2020, she was awarded a fellowship in the Heisenberg Programme of the German Research Foundation (DFG). She is a scientific mentor for technology start-up SERINO, recently founded by the Medical Valley Award to develop the next generation of infrared-detectors for medical applications.

Tayebeh joined the School of Engineering’s Molly Fergusson Initiative as Undergraduate Liaison Officer to help improve gender diversity in the School and support young female STEM students and researchers to succeed in engineering and applied sciences.

Speaking about her research interests, Tayebeh explained, “The aim of my research is to understand the fundamentals and improve the performance, stability and manufacturing processes of emerging printed organic and perovskite photovoltaics and next generation detectors. Ultimately, this research works to provide cheaper and more effective solutions for issues of key importance to society: particularly medical equipment and solutions to the climate emergency.

“I am delighted that my contribution to this research area has been recognized by being selected as one of the Top 50 Women in Engineering.”

“Inspiration to aspiring engineers”

Reacting to the School’s success in this year’s WE50 list, Director of Diversity and Inclusion Professor David Ingram commented, “I am delighted that the hard work of four of our women engineers has been recognised in this year’s Top 50. Karen, Katherine, Dipa and Tayebeh are true engineering heroes who have been tirelessly working behind the scenes during the Covid-19 emergency. I am delighted that they are joining Dr Camilla Thomson (who won last year).

“Their world-leading research is keeping us safe and helping to tackle the long-term, structural global challenges of our time, especially climate change. They are an inspiration to their colleagues, our students and to aspiring engineers everywhere.”

Head Judge, Professor Catherine Noakes OBE CEng FIMechE FIHEEM said, “With over 230 nominations, only the exceptional made it to the top 50. It was wonderful to read about the achievements of these extraordinary women and the impact that they are making on society with their talent, hard work and dedication.

“2020 was a year unlike any other and remarkable times call for remarkable people. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted how truly important science, technology and engineering are to the health of our planet. The 2021 WE50 personify the inventive and inclusive thinking needed to build a sustainable future. If there was ever a time that we needed these heroes in engineering, it is now.”

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