Professor Atkinson was made CBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours 2014 and DBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021 for services to Engineering and Education. She is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the highest honour for an engineer in the UK.
Dame Helen joined Cranfield University as Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the School of Aerospace, Transport and Manufacturing in September 2017. The School has ~1200 MSc students, ~350 PhD students, ~400 staff. Under her leadership the School is successfully delivering major projects, including the £35m Aerospace Integration Research Centre (AIRC), the £67m Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC), the £10m MUEAVI autonomous vehicle test track, the Global Research Airport development projects, and the £3m project to replace the National Flying Laboratory Classroom (NFLC) aircraft.
Before coming to Cranfield, Helen was at the University of Leicester where she was Head of the Department of Engineering, chaired the £17m project to rebuild the Percy Gee Students' Union and served as Graduate Dean. Helen was the first woman President of the Engineering Professors’ Council (the body which represents engineering in universities throughout the UK) in its 50-year history and has also served as a Vice President and Trustee of the Royal Academy of Engineering. In 2010 she won a national award as a Woman of Outstanding Achievement in Science, Engineering and Technology for ‘Leadership and Inspiration to Others’. She has been a Visiting Professor at a number of universities across the world and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Liège for her international standing as a metallurgist and materials scientist.
Helen has a First Class degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge and a PhD from Imperial College. She is a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Materials, Minerals and Mining and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Service on national bodies has included the Skills Panel of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (one of the world’s largest Engineering institutions), the Engineering Leaders Panel of the National Council for Universities and Business, and, for five years, chairing the Education and Skills Committee at the Royal Academy of Engineering. With the MoD she was a Secretary of State public appointment to a major safety committee.
Helen chairs the multi-million pound ‘This is Engineering’ project for the Royal Academy of Engineering, a social media campaign sponsored by a series of major industrial partners which aims to encourage more young people to consider engineering as a career.
Helen has served as Deputy Chair of the Strategic Facilities Advisory Board for the £200m Sir Henry Royce Institute, a major UK Government Materials Research Initiative, and was a member of the UK Advanced Materials Leadership Council reporting to the UK Government Department for Business Innovation and Skills on national priorities for Materials Research.