The winners of the 2024 Alumni Awards are using technology, innovation and determination to tackle the biggest issues our society faces.
Now in its fifth year, the Alumni Awards programme recognises and celebrates the outstanding achievements of Imperial graduates and shines a light on their contributions to science, engineering, medicine, business and society across three award categories.
A lifetime of trailblazing
The Distinguished Alumni Award honours alumni who have demonstrated sustained excellence in their personal and professional achievements, are leaders in their field or have made a substantial impact on society.
Professor David Larbalestier (Metallurgy 1965, PhD 1970) is one of the world leaders in superconducting materials and their translation into magnets. More than 90% of all magnets, including those for MRI medical scanners and huge particle accelerators, were made with conductors optimised according to processes developed by him and his team.
"Of course, I would like to be remembered for having a positive impact as a scientist. But I’ve had the privilege to work with lots of young students who had the ambition to be at the forefront of the field. That impact that so many of them has made ultimately is really most important to me."
Professor Monique Frize (MPhil Electrical Engineering 1970) is an engineer, a visionary, and a pioneer. For over five decades she has pushed the boundaries of the seemingly impossible. She has opened doors for others where they were firmly shut before. Her impact on the world of clinical engineering continues to reverberate around the world today.
“In one way, I was a builder. I was tough and wouldn’t accept anything less than the best for my hospitals. That drove me. There were a lot of battles.”
The Alumni Entrepreneur Award recognises innovative and creative founders who can demonstrate commercial success, growth and impact.
Ron Atzmon (MBA 2002) is an entrepreneur who doesn’t take the middle path and fiercely challenges the status quo. From humble beginnings in tech and finance, Ron founded AU10TIX, an identity verification technology solution that is used by companies such as Google, Paypal and Uber, with a value of over $300 million as of 2019.
“You need to be a dreamer. Optimistic. You get hammered to the floor, but you have to think ‘tomorrow’s another day’ – get up and fight back.”
Courageous. Innovative. Collaborative. Dr Jean Marc Feghali (MEng Civil Engineering 2018, PhD 2022) and Gökhan Meriçliler (MSc Business Analytics 2022) embody these three principles fully. They are the creators of WeWalk, the smart cane manufacturer for visually impaired people, successfully showing how technological innovation can be harnessed to transform people’s lives for the better.
“WeWalk is more than a product; it’s a shared vision for a more inclusive world. By blending rigorous research with real-world needs, we have developed a smart cane that helps visually impaired people actively participate in society. Thousands of WeWalk users already express how our smart cane has enabled them to live fuller lives.”
Leadership for a fairer world
Six alumni have been recognised with the Emerging Alumni Leader Award, which celebrates graduates from the last 15 years who are inspiring role models, mentors or champions for equality and are making an impact on society.
Alex Tourre (MSc Computing 2009) is on a mission to light up the homes and businesses of Western Africa. By listening closely to communities and offering an affordable, sustainable commercial proposition, Easy Solar is providing power to 200k homes across Sierra Leone to transform the lives of millions – and, already, it’s diversifying and expanding into neighbouring countries.
Dr Giuliana Di Martino (PhD Physics 2014) is a renowned expert in low-power, sustainable electronic devices. She has won awards, been recognised with fellowships, received prestigious grants, and become the head of a research group at a remarkably young age. All while balancing her academic responsibilities with raising her two young children.
Lola Aworanti-Ekugo (MBA 2019) is a digital and innovation expert with over 17 years of experience. Her focus is on steering organizations towards an innovative and sustainable future using technology within the private and public sector. Through advocacy and mentorship, Lola is also determined to boost diversity within technology and support upcoming female leaders.
Miroslav Gasparek (MEng Biomedical Engineering 2019) is excited by the potential of synthetic biology and bioengineering to create treatments that can help millions of people. It’s been a driving factor in establishing Sensible Biotechnologies, a company developing novel mRNA production technology with the potential to bring mRNA medicines to tackle a whole palette of ailments – from rare diseases to chronic illnesses.
Professor Phebe Vayanos (MEng Electrical & Electronic Engineering 2007, PhD Computing 2012) is motivated by a strong desire to positively impact society by helping marginalised communities and by training the next generation of professionals and researchers. An expert in optimisation, she uses her skills to design trustworthy AI suitable to deploy in high-stakes settings and to help public service organisations make more effective and equitable decisions.
Over 50% of us will develop a chronic disease by the age of 45, reducing the number of healthy years of life. Dr Wareed Alenaini (MRes Chemistry 2014) is on a mission to change this statistic with AI biotechnology that detects chronic conditions related to aging and frailty such as diseases of fatty deposits affecting vital organs, to prolong the duration of healthy performance for these vital organs as long as humanly possible.
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