Professor Dame Helen Atkinson DBE FREng, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the School of Aerospace, Transport Systems and Manufacturing at Cranfield University, is to receive one of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s most prestigious awards in recognition of her enormous contribution to the Academy’s work, particularly in education and careers outreach. Dame Helen will receive the President’s Medal at the Academy Awards Dinner in London on Tuesday 12 July.

Dame Helen has been an exceptionally committed Fellow of the Academy since her election in 2007, serving variously as a Vice President, Trustee and as Chair of the Education & Skills Committee. In 2015, Professor Atkinson delivered the Academy’s first East Midlands Regional Lecture, demonstrating how the properties of different metal alloys can range from being tougher than steel to some that can be cut like butter. 

Dame Helen has also made a vital contribution to the success of This is Engineering, a digital and social media campaign run by the Academy to inspire more young people from all backgrounds to become engineers.

Dame Helen was the first woman President of the UK Engineering Professors’ Council in its 50-year history and has been listed as a Woman of Outstanding Achievement in Science, Engineering and Technology, as one of the “Top 50 Influential Women in Engineering” and as a Women into Science and Engineering campaign Ambassador. She was made a Dame in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021 for services to engineering and education. 

Professor Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, says: “Alongside her career as an internationally renowned researcher in materials engineering, Dame Helen Atkinson has also made highly significant personal contributions to academic leadership and engineering education, outreach and diversity and inclusion. Her input has been critical to the success of the pioneering This is Engineering campaign, resulting in measurable improvements in young people’s willingness to consider engineering careers, especially among under-represented groups including women and ethnic minorities. She is an inspirational engineer and leader.”

Dame Helen says: “It is an absolute honour to receive the 2022 President’s Medal from the Royal Academy of Engineering. Engineering is so important to our lives every day – it is crucial to our economy and our quality of life, and there is such a huge variety of specialisms that make it exceptionally interesting. That’s why I am so passionate about engineering; it really is something that changes the world for the better."