Professor Helen Muir OBE was an acknowledged world leader in air passenger safety. She was an expert in human factors and hugely respected throughout the world of aviation. As well as her work in air passenger safety, Helen was also a key player in setting up the Women in Aerospace and Aviation Committee.
The Professor Helen Muir OBE PhD Scholarship will support a PhD research student working within the area of human factors in aviation.
PhD students play a vital role in the success of Cranfield University. These talented students are helping us to understand how human factors play a critical role in systems and industries. Their research also helps organisations to improve their understanding of how best to incorporate human behaviour and performance into design, so that early consideration of these factors can greatly improve efficiency and safety and prevent the need for more costly remedial activities at a later operational stage.
By working with experienced academic supervisors and, where appropriate, industrial partners, PhD candidates are able to deliver cutting-edge research findings that are often published in the peer-reviewed literature. PhD graduates go on to both academic research roles and positions in industry and government. Cranfield PhD graduates can be found around the world, leading thinking, people, and organisations.
Who was Professor Helen Muir OBE?
Professor Helen Muir OBE was born on 13 May 1946 and educated at Kendal High School. She achieved a first degree in psychology at the University of St Andrews. This was followed by a DPhil at the University of London and a Diploma in Advanced Counselling at South West London College. In 1984, she took up a position as a lecturer at Cranfield University and rapidly moved into the field she would make her own.
Following the tragic British Airtours Boeing 737 accident in which 55 people died following an engine fire on take-off from Manchester Airport, Cranfield University undertook a detailed study into aircraft evacuations on behalf of the UK Civil Aviation Authority. It was this work led by Helen with her team on cabin evacuation trails which made a major contribution to improved cabin design and cabin crew training in civil aircraft. She developed cabin evacuation test procedures which are mostly still in place today.
Professor Muir was the first chair of the RAeS’ Human Factors group, and was a key player in setting up the Women in Aerospace and Aviation Committee. She was awarded the prestigious Whittle Award for her outstanding contribution to airworthiness in 1999 and in 2004 she received the Sir James Martin Gold Medal from the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators. In 2008, Helen was the first Briton to be given the L. Welch Pogue Lifetime Achievement Award for her visionary and pre-eminent leadership in aviation.
While at Cranfield University Professor Muir was Professor of Aerospace Psychology, also serving as Dean of Engineering and Pro-Vice-Chancellor.
In June 2022, an aeronautical heritage award from the Royal Aeronautical Society was unveiled at Cranfield University, paying tribute to Helen as a world leader in passenger safety and an expert in human factors.
She died of cancer on 20 March 2010, aged 63.
PhD work is critical to developing talented academics and making a significant contribution to research. Without the support of donors like you, these students would not be able to study at Cranfield.
Human factors in aviation is about understanding how people work with each other and the technology and systems around them. It is an important part of aviation safety in that it helps us to understand the factors that may cause errors and violations and to identify technologies, procedures, training and other interventions to reduce recurrence.
Although Cranfield University continues to be successful in attracting Research Council funding, we need your support.
Cranfield University has committed to matching your donations for a limited period, which means your generous gifts to the Professor Helen Muir OBE PhD Scholarship will go twice as far. The full cost of a PhD Scholarship is between £40,000 and £90,000, but with matched funding, gifts which total to just half these amounts will enable us to support a PhD student in human factors in aviation.
Ways to give
The easiest way to give a gift is online. Please visit our secure online portal to make a one-off gift or set up a regular donation. A gift to the scholarship fund will help you honour Professor Helen Muir's legacy, set a bright student on the path to success, and contribute to air passenger safety.
What’s more, as Cranfield University is a registered charity, if you are a UK taxpayer we can claim Gift Aid on your donation. This means that we can reclaim 25% (based on tax year 2021/22) from HM Revenue and Customs and make your donation go further.