Imperial College London

Portraits of eminent Imperial women unveiled


Staff view portraits of celebrated female scientists at Imperial

Staff view portraits of Imperial women

President Alice Gast unveiled portraits of five celebrated Imperial women this week.

During the unveiling, President Gast praised the efforts of Professor Dorothy Griffiths, the Provost’s Envoy for Gender Equality, Professor Dame Julia Higgins, Senior Research Investigator, as well as the College’s Archivist and Corporate Records Manager Anne Barrett, for "working tirelessly to increase the visibility of women at Imperial." 

She added: “Women’s portraiture at Imperial has been championed by the Provost James Stirling, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his work in bringing this to fruition.”

Alice Gast unveils portraits of celebrated Imperial women
President Alice Gast unveils the portraits in the College's Garden Room

Curiosity, passion and persistence

Artist Tess Barnes
Artist Tess Barnes at the unveiling

President Gast also thanked the artist behind the paintings, Tess Barnes, who has a particular interest in painting women who work in science. 

“I was delighted to  paint these wonderful women," Tess said.

"There was a lot of laughter and brilliant chats about life and the universe. Whilst painting portraits of individuals that work in STEM fields for my exhibition ‘Discover STEM’, I’ve become aware of how similar art and STEM subjects are – they both involve great curiosity, passion and persistence.” 

Tess has painted Professor Dame Julia Higgins and Professor Dorothy Griffiths individually, and produced a three-in-one portrait of Professor Michelle Dougherty, Professor Jo Haigh and Professor Jenny Nelson.

The portraits were funded by Imperial alumni through the Regular Giving programme in Advancement.

Professor Dame Julia Higgins: “The River By Which She Lives”

A view of the River Thames forms the background of Professor Higgins' portrait, while her scarf reflects her work as a polymer scientist - its pattern resembles a polyethylene module. The lapel badge represents the Royal Academy of Engineering, while the three books by her side represent institutions central to her career. This painting was previously hanging in the College Room at 58 Prince’s Gate.

Professor Dame Julia Higgins

Professor Higgins was the first woman to be awarded Fellowship of both the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering, and is currently the President of the Institute of Physics.

She began her Imperial career in 1976 as a Lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Professor Higgins went on to lead the Faculty of Engineering and serve as a member of the College’s Council.

Throughout her career, she has championed the cause of women in science, from her role as the first Chair of the Athena Project in 1998 - 2003, to patron of Women in Science and Engineering.  

Professor Higgins was made a Dame in the 2001 Queen’s Birthday Honours. 

Professor Dot Griffiths: “Of Books and Her Beloved Cats”

Professor Dot Griffiths

Professor Dot Griffiths is shown sitting in her private study at home, with her cats and books of significance next to her - including a book she commissioned the College's Archivist Anne Barrett to write, entitled 'Women at Imperial College Past, Present and Future'.

Professor Griffiths has held a number of leadership roles at Imperial, including Dean of the Business School and Provost’s Envoy for Gender Equality.

She has a long term interest in the position of women in management, science and technology and has led a number of activities in this area on behalf of the College. 

Professor Griffiths is now Emeritus Professor of Human Resources Management, as well as being Chair of Central North West London NHS Foundation Trust. 

Three female Fellows of the Royal Society: Department of Physics

Professor Michele Dougherty and Professor Joanna Haigh
Professor Joanna Haigh (left) and Professor Michele Dougherty (right) in front of their brand new portrait

In this portrait, Professor Michele Dougherty is seen with Saturn above her head, and the magnetometer she designed for the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn to her right. Jo Haigh has been drawn against the backdrop of the sun and atmosphere to represent her work on climate change, while Professor Jenny Nelson is surrounded by sunlight, to represent solar cells.

Professor Michele Dougherty

Professor Michele Dougherty, Head of the Department of Physics, was the Principal Investigator for the key magnetic field instrument aboard the international NASA-ESA Cassini-Huygens spacecraft orbiting Saturn. 

Last month, she was awarded a Gold medal from the Institute of Physics for her work on the Cassini project, and she has also won a CBE for services to UK Physical Sciences. Professor Dougherty was made a fellow of the Royal Society in 2012.

Professor Jo Haigh

Professor Jo Haigh is Co-Director of the Grantham Institute - Climate Change and Environment. She joined Imperial in 1984 and has published widely in the area of radiative transfer in the atmosphere, climate modelling, radiative forcing of climate change and the influence of solar irradiance variability on climate. 

She is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and has been a President of the Royal Meteorological Society. Professor Haigh was awarded a CBE in 2013 for her services to physics and became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2013.

Professor Jenny Nelson

Professor Jenny Nelson has been a member of the Department of Physics since 1989, investigating energy and energy conversion materials, particularly solar energy and photovoltaic technologies to mitigate the production of sources of climate change such as carbon dioxide. She is also the Head of Mitigation Technologies at the Grantham Institute.

She is the author of a popular text book, ‘The Physics of Solar Cells’, was awarded the Institute of Physics Joule Prize and Medal in 2009, a Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award in 2010, and the Royal Society Armourers and Brasiers’ Company Prize and Medal in 2012. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2014.


Martha Salhotra

Martha Salhotra
Communications and Public Affairs

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