The annual Athena Lecture was established in 2001 by the Academic Opportunities Committee to celebrate the achievements of women in science, engineering, technology and medicine. Each summer we invite a successful woman to talk about her career and life. You can learn more about our speakers in previous years and watch their videos below. 

2018 - Experiments in Chemistry and Life

Dame Mary Archer, Chair, Science Museum Group

Dame Mary discusses how studying chemistry and researching solar energy conversion shaped her career. The lecture also included an element not usually found in the periodic table – music.

Read an interview with Dame Mary Archer

2018 Athena Lecture

2018 Athena Lecture


2017 - The Accidental Executive: A journey from Physics to the Boardroom

Sinead Lynch, UK Country Chair, Royal Dutch Shell

Sinead Lynch describes her career journey from geophysicist specialising in seismic modelling to company executive. She explores the challenges and joys of a career spent in the oil and gas industry, as well as sharing insights into managing both personal and professional change. In particular, she discusses lessons from her role in leading the integration of the $52 billion acquisition of BG Group by Royal Dutch Shell.

Read an interview with Sinead Lynch

Watch the 2017 Athena Lecture

Watch the 2017 Athena Lecture

2016 - Order, Disorder, Complex Fluids & Life

Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London

In her lecture, President Gast speaks about the inspirations and hurdles that shaped her career.  She explains her research interests in surface and interfacial phenomena, in particular the physics of complex fluids, colloidal suspensions, micelles, membranes and proteins.


Watch the 2016 Athena Lecture

2015 - Towards a silent aircraft

Professor Dame Ann Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering

 In ‘Towards a silent aircraft’, Professor Dowling describes her career fusing engineering research with industrial practice, and shares insights into aircraft noise, which has been a recurring focus of her work. Although aircraft noise has reduced considerably since the introduction of high speed jet transport, it is still a major societal concern.

Watch the 2015 Athena Lecture

Athena Lecture Archive

2014 - Passion, Parasites and People

Professor Deborah Smith, OBE, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of York

In this lecture, Professor Smith describes her career journey, which has taken place on the crest of the molecular biology revolution. Moving from classical biochemistry via molecular genetics to parasitology, her research has focused on investigating the role of Leishmania parasites in causing a spectrum of tropical diseases. She has unravelled novel mechanisms critical for parasite transmission and persistence in humans and pioneered the development of genomic analysis for these organisms. Realising Deborah’s career-long aim to make a difference through scientific discovery, the translation of her research is underpinning the development of drugs and vaccines for neglected infections, including the human leishmaniasis and African sleeping sickness.

Read an interview with Professor Deborah Smith

2014 Athena Lecture

2014 Athena Lecture

2013 - From geek to glamour via a desert island - how did I get here?

Professor Dame Athene Donald, University of Cambridge  

In the 2013 Athena Lecture, Professor Dame Athene discusses both her scientific work and career path as a female physicist. She explains her research in soft matter physics and her work communicating science to the general public. 

Read an interview with Professor Athene Donald

from geek to glamour via a desert island how did i get here/

2013 Athena Lecture


2012 - Inside the Brain

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester 

Read an interview with Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell

Nancy Rothwell

2011 - From Autoimmunity to Zebrafish - an immunologist's view of the world

Professor Maggie Dallman, Principal of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Imperial College London

Read an interview with Professor Maggie Dallman

From autoimmunity to zebrafish - an immunologist's view of the world

Watch the 2011 Athena Lecture

2010 - No Escape from Stress

Professor Julia Buckingham, Pro-Rector (Education), Imperial College London

No escape from Stress

Watch the 2010 Athena Lecture

2009 - Insights and vistas in hyperbolic geometry

Professor Caroline Series, University of Warwick 

Insights and vistas in hyperbolic geometry

Watch the 2009 Athena Lecture

2008 - The cerebral signature for pain perception in health and disease

2007 - Growing Interactions: from individuals to systems

Professor Dame Julia Higgins, Principal of the Faculty of Engineering, Imperial College London

Read the news story for more information

Growing Interactions: from individuals to systems

Watch the 2007 Athena Lecture

2006 - Rethinking Informed Consent

Baroness Onora O'Neill, Principal of Newnham College, University of Cambridge

Rethinking Informed Consent

Watch the 2006 Athena Lecture

2001 - 2005 Athena Lectures

Towards the Semantic Web: the power of networks
Professor Wendy Hall, University of Southampton5

Nuclear Power: A solution to climate change or a victim of its own history?
Sue Ion, British Nuclear Fuels Ltd

Fraud and Misconduct in Scientific Research
Professor Dame Lesley Rees, London Medical School

Astronomy and Research Management - A Space for Women
Dr Catherine Cesarsky, Director of the European Southern Observatory

Gender Equity in Academia: Lessons from the MIT Experience
Professor Lotte Bailyn, Massachusetts Institute of Technology