We are celebrating the achievements of 31 of our inspirational women each day in March. These are the women we are celebrating this week:
Honorary Graduate Hilary Mantel CBE (Hon DLitt 2011) is the first woman and first British author to have won the Man Booker prize for literature twice; for her best-selling novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies.
Helen Taylor is a Professor of English and the University’s Humanities Arts and Culture Development Fellow. In the academic community she is best known for her expertise in the field of American Studies where she has added to the body of research for almost four decades. Her research on ‘Gone with the Wind’ made a significant contribution to the understanding of the role of popular culture in the notions of the South, of femininity, of whiteness and of slavery.
Sarah Turvill is the Chair of the University’s Governing Body, Council. Having graduated with a law degree from Exeter, she took her Barrister’s exams at the College of Law and joined global insurance broker Willis as an in-house lawyer in 1978.
Gill is the Retail Manager for the Marketplace shop based in the Forum and is a fantastic example of someone who can achieve anything if they put their mind to it.
Her hard work and dedication has seen her develop her career from being a part time retail assistant to a confident manager of 15, who was integral to the planning, development and implementation of the Marketplace.
Gabriella Giannachi, FRSA, is Professor in Performance and New Media, and Director of the Centre for Intermedia at the University of Exeter, which promotes advanced interdisciplinary research in performance and the arts through collaborations between artists, academics and scientists from a range of disciplines.
Nicky Britten is Professor of Applied Health Care Research. She specialises in the ways in which evidence-based treatments are used in patients’ everyday lives; in qualitative methods in health care; and in patient and public involvement in research. Her work aims to promote good communication and to enable health professionals in supporting patients more effectively.
The intricate nature of Fiona Mathews’ research as a Mammal Biologist allows her to examine how the environment faced by both people and wildlife alike has transformed since the Industrial Revolution of 19th century Britain. In particular, her work investigates how crucial modern challenges, from urban expansion to exposure to wind turbines, light pollution, mobile telephones, and nutritional inadequacies, affect population dynamics.
Alumna Sigrid Kaag is overseeing the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme, in her role as head of the Joint Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations.
Sigrid graduated from Exeter with an MA in Politics and Economics of the Middle East in 1988 and prior to that completed an M. Phil in International Relations at St Antony's College, University of Oxford.
Val is the Manager of the Family Centre on the Streatham Campus and has been for over 40 years. In 2002 she received an MBE at Buckingham Palace for ‘Services to Higher Education’, recognising the contribution her work makes to enabling students and staff to achieve their academic goals.
She has developed a centre which was rated Ofsted Outstanding across all areas in 2009. The support she has given to so many children and their carers over the years is truly inspirational.
Manuela Barreto is a Professor of Social and Organisational Psychology, whose work focus on how individuals and groups cope with social disadvantage. She also leads the University’s interdisciplinary research theme of Societal and Lifestyle Shifts, which analyses change at the individual, group, and societal level.
One of Hazel Lawson’s proudest moments was winning a prestigious education prize awarded to her for a research paper on literacy practices for children with severe learning difficulties.
The United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA), an organisation whose sole objective is the advancement of education in literacy, selected Hazel Lawson and her four co-authors as winners of the UKLA/Wiley-Blackwell Research in Literacy Education Award 2013.
Becky John (English with Medieval Studies 1998) started the social business Who Made Your Pants? based in Southampton. It has two aims – creating underwear using unwanted off cuts from the lingerie industry and employing women who’ve “had a hard time,” chiefly refugees from areas of conflict around the world. The profits are driven back into the business to offer training and development for staff, which includes providing English lessons.
On the face of it, Francesca Stavrakopoulou is something of an anomaly. Despite being a well-documented atheist, she is the Head of Theology & Religion at the University of Exeter, and conducts research specialising in ancient Israelite and Judahite religions.
Anna Harper is a strong believer in the integral role that a strong and supportive family can play in nurturing your professional career. As well as citing her mother as her most inspirational role model, the Mathematics Research Fellow also insists that the support and encouragement offered by her own family as crucial to her own career development.
Sarah is best known for her Bronze medal-winning performance at the London 2012 Olympic Games. In the play-off she scored twice to help secure a 3-1 victory over New Zealand, which resulted in the first British women’s hockey Olympic medal in 20 years.
During her hockey career Sarah represented Wales at every level, including as Captain. She first represented Great Britain in 2003 and went on to amass over 100 caps.
Professor Meiling Zhu holds the Chair of Mechanical Engineering and leads the research theme in design, modelling and implementation of energy harvesting powered wireless sensing and communication systems within the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences. It is a position that she takes a great deal of responsibility for, and pride in, and hopes that it provides inspiration to the next generation of scientists.
Debra is Associate Dean - Research and Knowledge Transfer in the College of Social Sciences and International Studies. She is a nationally recognised leading academic in the field of education with a particular interest in literacy.
Her commitment is to the bringing together of teaching, teacher education and research so that children and young people‘s experience of learning to be literate enables them to be confident, articulate citizens of the future, able to use language and literature for personal fulfilment and economic well-being.
Marie Notermans is testament to what can be achieved through determination, dedication and drive. The English and Spanish student was named as the Arts and Humanities Undergraduate of the Year in 2013, beating off fierce nationwide competition from her peers. The awards, with 12 different categories, are designed to identify and celebrate the UK’s best undergraduates in specific areas. The shortlisting process mirrors a graduate recruitment selection procedure, and includes online tests, interviews and assessments.
As a leading Earth scientist, it is perhaps not surprising that Claire Belcher finds inspiration in the world around her. Claire’s ground-breaking research looks at the role that wildfires play on our planet, yet she insists that her motivation comes from surroundings much closer to home. She says: “My inspiration comes from what I can see outside my window. Our planet is simply amazing, how all these living beings and the rocks beneath our feet work together to create a habitable planet. It makes you wonder just how it all fits into place.”
Claire’s passion for her work was recognised when she was awarded the coveted Marie Curie Prize for Communicating Science in 2013.
Six months ago, Ayesha Alam was attending her graduation ceremony in Exeter to receive her BA in Business Economics as a graduate of the University’s Business School. Roll forward three months – and she’s responsible for the English language skills of 50 underprivileged young Indian children through the TeachforIndia (TFI) programme.
Tamsin Ford is Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Exeter Medical School. She completed her core training in psychiatry on the Royal London Hospital Training rotation and her specialist training in child and adolescent psychiatry at the Bethlem and Maudsley Hospitals.
Her PhD was completed at the Institute of Psychiatry and she moved to Exeter in 2007. She leads a group of researchers whose work focuses on the effectiveness of services and interventions to support mental health and well-being of children and young people.
Second-year maths student Emily Burton saw off competition from more than 4,000 students from 149 universities nationwide to win the National Student Challenge 2013. Her prize for winning the coveted accolade was a paid internship with leading global engineering and technology services company, Siemens.
For the competition, Emily had to take part in a variety of practical tests which included individual and group exercises, to test her decision making, communication and business awareness. Emily, from Royston, Hertfordshire, described the event as ‘one of the most invigorating days’ of her life.
Hannah Wakeford is an astrophysicist studying the atmospheres of exoplanets, planets outside our solar system orbiting other stars. Despite the sheer complexity of her research, Hannah takes great pride in sharing her passion for the subject as widely as possible. By taking part in outreach events, as well as running an astrophysics blog, Hannah hopes her enthusiasm will encourage people to start exploring the universe for themselves.
By looking at fossilised plant remains in the Amazon rainforest, Jennifer Watling hopes to answer questions about how ‘man made’ the Amazon is and how humans have affected current biodiversity. Her research led to Jennifer winning the prestigious UK Scopus Young Researcher Award 2013, recognition that she describes as her proudest moment to date.
Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE, DL, Hon DLitt (Exeter)
Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE is an actress, presenter, writer, independent producer, working peer and an active advocate for the welfare, care and education of children throughout the world. She has also headed a successful film and television production company for the last 25 years.
The early teenage years are perhaps the most formative of a young person’s life. In a bid to inspire change amongst this peer group, which is characterised by its thirst for learning and exploration, Lorna Harries co-ordinates a very special annual event. Called “Men in White”, it brings Year 9 students from schools across the region to the University of Exeter Medical School to experience what working in a research laboratory is really like.
Lorna, a Senior Lecturer in Molecular Genetics at the Medical School, said events such as this can play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the scientists of tomorrow.
Harriet Lamb CBE (Hon LLD 2011) is the Chief Executive of Fairtrade International, a global organisation which seeks to secure a better deal for farmers and workers. The Fairtrade system works with 1.3 million people across more than 70 developing countries, with its products sold in 125 countries.
As Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation for just over a decade, Harriet oversaw a huge increase in UK sales, from £30m to £1.5 billion by 2012.
Delphine Jones has worked for the University for more than 20 years and works in the design studio as a senior graphic designer.
One of the proudest moments of her career was being awarded the Professional Service Award of Heroine of the Year in 2012. She says: “It wasn’t just about the ceremony, although that was fantastic, afterwards I received so many emails of support and congratulations from colleagues across the University and from external professionals within the design and print industry – it was truly amazing.”
Michelle Ryan is the embodiment of International Women’s Day’s main theme – inspiring change. A Professor of Social and Organisational Psychology, Michelle helped uncover the phenomenon of the glass cliff, whereby women and members of other minority groups are more likely to be occupy leadership positions which are risky or precarious. This pioneering research was short-listed for the Times Higher Education Supplement Research Project of the Year in 2005 and named by the New York Times as one of the ideas that shaped 2008.
Hannah Barton is the President of the University’s Student Guild for 2013/2014. She is a Psychology graduate and was the subject co-chair for two years. It’s been her job to lead and direct The Guild, be its figurehead, and make sure that students’ voices are being heard by the University.
Selin distinguished herself whilst she was in her final year at the University by winning the Institute of Directors (IoD) accolade of ‘Student Member of the Year’, receiving the award at its London headquarters.
It was a very tough selection process which included an assessment day including a gruelling interview with an illustrious panel made up of well-known business leaders. She was selected for the final six candidates and invited to the IoD Annual Awards Ceremony. To her shock and delight she was announced that evening as the winner of the award.
Rebecca Hardwick joined the Medical School in 2012 with a background in NHS policy implementation and service improvement. She is an Associate Research Fellow, working for the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC), South West Peninsula. Currently she is researching how to improve the way GPs and hospital consultants work together in the care of patients with long term conditions. She also runs a journal club and writes a blog on health services research methods with her colleague Mark Pearson.
First year Physics student Beth Reeks was named one of Time magazine’s most Influential Teens of 2013. Ranked alongside Malala Yousafzai, the Afghan teenager who survived an attempted assassination to become one of the world’s most inspirational education activists, as well as global pop phenomenon Justin Beiber, Beth was honoured for a burgeoning book-writing career than began at the tender age of just 15 – something that perhaps understandably ranks amongst her proudest achievements.
Zena Wood is passionate about sharing her knowledge, enthusiasm and expertise with the computer scientists of tomorrow. She takes great pride in inspiring schoolchildren of all ages to open their mind to the possibilities that this burgeoning area of science can offer them for their future careers.
Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan (Law, 1979, Hon LLD 2011) is a Malaysian barrister.
Her proudest professional moment was her election as President of the Malaysian Bar in 2007. Six months later she organised a peaceful Walk for Justice, calling for judicial reform.
She believes passionately in the rule of law, fair elections, equality, religious tolerance and human rights. As Co-Chairperson of the organisation Bersih 2.0 – the Coalition for Clean and Fair elections, Ambiga organised a rally of thousands of people in Kuala Lumpur. This led to her arrest and that of many other supporters.
Sarah Gurr was recently appointed to the Chair in Food Security, a post created by the University of Exeter in association with BBSRC and Rothamsted Research. She also sits on the BBSRC Council.
Her role at Exeter is to engage with and enhance the activities of the world-leading fungal group in Biosciences, to catalyse research across the campus and to promote awareness and use of the unique Farm Platform capability at Rothamsted/North Wyke.