University engineer named among UK’s Top 50 Women in Engineering

23 June 2016

Professor Karen Holford
Professor Karen Holford FREng, FLSW, CEng FIMechE

Professor Karen Holford, Cardiff University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor, College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, has been named in the inaugural list of the Top 50 Women in Engineering.

The list was compiled by the Daily Telegraph in collaboration with the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), and today’s publication coincides with National Women in Engineering Day.

The top 50 were selected by a distinguished panel of judges from almost 900 nominations, and represent the UK’s most influential female engineers. Professor Holford is among only eight on the list who are based in universities.

Professor Holford said: “It’s an honour to be named on the same list as some of my engineering heroines, but this award is also recognition of people who have influenced my career - from those involved in my degree apprenticeship at Rolls-Royce and Cardiff, my engineering work at AB Electronics and the hugely supportive environment at Cardiff University.

“I have always felt very much part of a team here, and I’m very grateful to all the people who have helped and supported me in my various roles.”

Professor Holford’s career began at Rolls-Royce where she contributed to a range of technical projects including work on the Adour and Pegasus engines. Then at AB Electronic Products, she was responsible for developing automotive electronic products for Jaguar Rover and was soon promoted to the role of senior engineer.

Since moving into academia 25 years ago, she has helped to build the now substantial international reputation of acoustic engineering research at Cardiff, which now boasts the best equipped experimental acoustic engineering facility in Europe.

Her research into acoustic emission has resulted in technology that has greatly improved the safety monitoring of bridges and other structures, and she is now applying the same techniques to detect faults in aircraft structures - with the potential to revolutionise aircraft design and result in lighter aircraft.

This year she co-authored the Welsh Government report, Talented Women for a Successful Wales, which analysed the importance of getting more women into science and engineering careers, and how this might be achieved.

Julie James AM, Minister for Skills and Science, said:  “Karen thoroughly deserves this honour – she is a wonderful role model for all aspiring engineers.

“The under-representation of women in science and engineering is a serious problem for Wales and for the UK as a whole, and the Welsh Government is actively working towards increasing the numbers of women in the science sector.”

Professor Julie Williams, Chief Scientific Advisor for Wales said: “Karen is one of those who defies the old stereotypes and has forged a hugely successful career as one of the most outstanding engineers in the UK and she has become an inspiration for young women everywhere.”

The list includes Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Dame Judith Hackitt DBE, former Chair of the Health and Safety Executive and now Chair of EEF, the Manufacturers’ Organisation.

Judge Allan Cook CBE, Chairman of Atkins commented: “I was really impressed with the calibre, quality and quantity of the submissions. Reading through the entries it was incredibly exciting to see the breadth of talent we have in our engineering community.”

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