The College established the annual Athena Lecture in 2001 to celebrate the achievements of women in science, engineering, technology and medicine. Each year 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.
Watch previous Athena Lectures
2021 - Passions, failures, bold decisions & careers
Magdalena Skipper talks about the steps in her career
Dr Magdalena Skipper, Editor in Chief of Nature and Chief Editorial Advisor for Nature Research discusses her career:
"No matter how successful and fulfilling a career, few can say that every step along the way was carefully planned and executed. Making the most of opportunities is as important as learning from failures. But above all, it is knowing when and how to take risks and keeping an open mind at all times that have played a key role in helping me along the way to where I am today."
2018 - Experiments in Chemistry and Life
Dame Mary Archer discusses how studying chemistry and researching solar energy shaped her career
Dame Mary Archer, Chair of the Science Museum Group, discusses how studying chemistry and researching solar energy conversion shaped her career.
The 2018 lecture also included an element not usually found in the periodic table – music.
2017 - A journey from Physics to the Boardroom
Sinead Lynch describes her career journey from geophysicist to company executive
Sinead Lynch, UK Country Chair, Royal Dutch Shell, 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
President Alice Gast speaks about the inspirations and hurdles that shaped her career
Imperial President Alice 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 describes her career fusing engineering research with industrial practice
Professor Dame Ann Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, describes her career fusing engineering research with industrial practice.
She 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.
2014 - Passion, Parasites and People
Professor Deborah Smith talks about her career journey during the molecular biology revolution
Professor Deborah Smith, OBE, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of York, talks about 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. 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
Professor Athene Donald discusses both her scientific work and career path as a female physicist
Professor Dame Athene Donald, University of Cambridge, 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.
2011 - From Autoimmunity to Zebrafish
Professor Maggie Dallman gives an immunologist's view of the world
Professor Maggie Dallman speaks about an immunologist's view of the world.
She talks about her career investigating the inflammatory responses of organisms and how this could hold the key to treating life threatening conditions.
2010 - No escape from stress
Professor Julia Buckingham explores cortisol and its role in stress
Professor Julia Buckingham, Pro-Rector (Education) at Imperial, describes her research about stress - a protective mechanisms which enable organisms to cope with adverse situations, which has fascinated scientists for many years.
The stress hormone, cortisol, has a particularly important role. Julia explores the mechanisms that regulate its secretion and illustrates the potential consequences of cortisol imbalance.
2009 - Insights and vistas in hyperbolic geometry
Professor Caroline Series describes some of the unusual features of hyperbolic
Professor Caroline Series, University of Warwick, talks about her career journey and describes some of the unusual features of hyperbolic geometry.
Abstracting the special features of hyperbolic geometry has led to profound new insights, which in turn have been developed into remarkable new tools for understanding the geometry of three dimensional manifolds (the three dimensional analogue of surfaces).
2007 - Growing interactions: from individuals to systems
Professor Julia Higgins discusses how research and people have changed over her time at the College
Professor Dame Julia Higgins, Principal of the Faculty of Engineering at Imperial, discusses how research and people have changed over her time at the College.
As well as her research, Julia also talks about her involvement in work at Imperial on gender equality.
2006 - Rethinking informed consent
Baroness Onora O'Neill talks about the development of informed consent and thoughts to improve
Baroness Onora O'Neill, Principal of Newnham College, University of Cambridge, talks about the history and development of informed consent and gives her thoughts on how to improve current practice.
Athena Lecture archive
Full list of previous speakers
2021, Of passions, failures, bold decisions and alternative careers, Dr Magdalena Skipper, Editor in Chief of Nature and Chief Editorial Advisor for Nature Research
2020 - no lecture was held this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic
2019, Scientific Leadership, Margaret Heffernan, Author and CEO
2018, Experiments in Chemistry and Life, Dame Mary Archer, Chair, Science Museum Group
2017, The Accidental Executive: A journey from Physics to the Boardroom, Sinead Lynch, UK Country Chair, Royal Dutch Shell
2016, Order, Disorder, Complex Fluids & Life, Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London
2015, Towards a silent aircraft, Professor Dame Ann Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering
2014, Passion, Parasites and People, Professor Deborah Smith, OBE, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of York
2013, From geek to glamour via a desert island - how did I get here?, Professor Dame Athene Donald, University of Cambridge
2012, Inside the Brain, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester
2011, From Automimmunity 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
2005, Towards the Semantic Web: the power of networks, Professor Wendy Hall, University of Southampton
2004, Nuclear Power: A solution to climate change or a victim of its own history?, Sue Ion, British Nuclear Fuels Ltd
2003, Fraud and Misconduct in Scientific Research, Professor Dame Lesley Rees, London Medical School
2002, Astronomy and Research Management - A Space for Women, Dr Catherine Cesarsky, Director of the European Southern Observatory
2001, Gender Equity in Academia: Lessons from the MIT Experience, Professor Lotte Bailyn, Massachusetts Institute of Technology