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.
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.
2016 - Order, Disorder, Complex Fluids & Life
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.
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.
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.
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.
2012 - Inside the Brain
Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester
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
2010 - No Escape from Stress
Professor Julia Buckingham, Pro-Rector (Education), Imperial College London
2009 - Insights and vistas in hyperbolic geometry
Professor Caroline Series, University of Warwick
2008 - The cerebral signature for pain perception in health and disease
Professor Irene Tracey, University of Oxford
2007 - Growing Interactions: from individuals to systems
Professor Dame Julia Higgins, Principal of the Faculty of Engineering, Imperial College London
2006 - Rethinking Informed Consent
Baroness Onora O'Neill, Principal of Newnham College, University of Cambridge
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