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Diversity and inclusion

IOP Member scoops Top 50 Women in Engineering award

Dr Katherine Dunn recognised for her work to improve engineering in service of our society.


IOP Member Dr Katherine Dunn has been named as one of the Women’s Engineering Society’s (WES) Top 50 Women in Engineering: Engineering Heroes for 2021.

The WE50 awards take place annually on International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), an international awareness campaign held on 23 June each year. The campaign aims to raise the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities available to women and girls in engineering.

The 2021 awards are celebrating women who have improved engineering in service of our society.

Every year the awards have a particular theme, and this year they celebrate 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’.

Katherine 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.

She 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 the academic community, mentoring staff, providing pastoral support for 35 undergraduates and supervising three innovative PhD students.

In March 2020, she 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 engineering 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.

Speaking about this year’s awards, WES chief executive Elizabeth Donnelly MSc, FRSA, MRAeS, MINCOSE, said: “We are delighted to celebrate the trailblazing women whose work and advocacy are changing the shape of engineering in the UK.”

Read more about the awards.

IOP Member Dr Katherine Dunn holding her WE50 trophy