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

2018 - Experiments in Chemistry and Life

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.

Imperial 2018 Athena Lecture - Mary Archer

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.

Sinead Lynch describes her career journey

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.

Alice Gast speaks about her inspirations and career hurdles

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.

Professor Dame Ann Dowling describes her career

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.

Deborah Smith describes her career journey

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.

Professor Athene Donald discusses her scientific work

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.

Professor Maggie Dallman speaks about an immunologist's view

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.

Julia Buckingham describes her research about stress

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. 

Caroline Series describes some of the unusual features

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).

Julia Higgins discusses how research and people have changed

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. 

Baroness Onora O'Neill talks about improving informed consen

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 Athena Lecture speakers

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