Dr Rachael Hazael, Senior Lecturer in Advanced Protective Materials at Cranfield Forensic Institute, has been shortlisted in the Innovation and Creativity Award category of the 2022 Women in Defence UK Awards.

Dr Hazael’s research focuses on the response of materials to impact and blast events within both security and defence contexts. This includes investigating the impact of improvised explosive device (IED) blasts on personal protective equipment (PPE); designing carbon zero soft armour vests; finding sustainable alternatives to ballistic gelatine; and progressing understanding of emerging threats to civilian and security personnel and the implications on current protection.

The key challenges of these projects are not always technological, they must be cost effective, environmentally friendly, and deliver the correct levels of protection at reduced weight. This requires creative and innovative engineering solutions, often with a multi-disciplinary approach.

Fast-paced research landscape

The fast-paced nature of this area of research enables Dr Hazael, her collaborators and her students to provide solutions to areas of the world experiencing devastating conflicts and deliver world-leading research that has a wide range of applications across industry and adds value to UK defence and partners.

Professor Mark Richardson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Defence and Security at Cranfield University said: “Huge congratulations to Rachael for achieving this recognition which is very much deserved. Rachael’s innovation is well recognised within the explosive sector and attracts collaboration with a range of partners. Rachael is instrumental in supporting students at Cranfield and her creativity inspires learning and research projects at MSc and PhD level.”

Dr Hazael said: “I am thrilled to have been shortlisted in this year’s Women in Defence Awards – it is a privilege to be shortlisted alongside other such inspirational people in the defence sector. As academics, we strive for research excellence; to enable us to find unique solutions for knowledge and capability gaps within defence and security, which inevitably leads to creative and innovative solutions! So it is lovely to be recognised for work I enjoy.”

Creative, innovative multi-disciplinary approach

Dr Hazael’s creative and innovative solutions to defence focused problems have included using natural vegetation to provide protection from explosions based on computational and experimental methodologies, demonstrating the multi-disciplinary approach taken to defensive science and technology research.

Research has also covered armour materials and the response of extreme environments, bringing in space and astrobiology, and the development of bespoke ballistic armour systems used in humanitarian efforts to remove land mines. This involves empowering local communities through education on the manufacturing of sustainable PPE and positively affect the local economy. 

Research student and STEM champion

Dr Hazael was recently voted a ‘sensational’ research supervisor in the student-led Cranfield teaching awards and is now the academic lead for the doctoral research community at Cranfield Defence and Security.

Throughout her career Rachael has championed STEM outreach and supported local schools and colleges by giving interest lectures, while acting as a career mentor for Cranfield staff.

The winners of the Women in Defence awards 2022 will be announced on 24 November 2022.