Celebrating inspiring women in science for International Women’s Day


Celebrating all women – a note from Director of N8 Research Partnership, Annette Bramley

This week we have been showcasing some of the amazing female role models from across the N8 Research Partnership as part of our International Women’s Day campaign, #N8Women.

Inclusiveness in our research body is vital because it makes us stronger, as individual universities and as a partnership.

If we hit the government’s target of 2.4% GDP invested in research and innovation by 2027, we will create jobs for thousands of new researchers, technicians and project managers across the Northern Powerhouse.  For the best new ideas and insights we will need to draw on the whole pool of talent and bring diverse perspectives and points of view, to challenge assumptions constructively and develop more robust solutions.

The women that we have highlighted this week as part of #N8 women are important, not only because of their achievements, but also because they are role models and leaders.  By virtue of their status and profile they help to define the culture of the workplaces.

Daniel Coyle, in his book “The Culture Code”, describes culture as “a set of living relationships working towards a shared goal.  It is not something you are, it is something you do.”

The N8 Research Partnership is all about a culture of collaboration.  Research workplaces that encourage diversity, pluralism and intellectual tolerance will create better environments for both fundamental and challenge-led research.  As we increasingly look to form more multi-disciplinary research teams, drawing from a research community which is itself increasingly inclusive, it will result in more people joining those discussions instinctively and more able to collaborate with others with different perspectives and methods.  This in turn will lead to better research outcomes and impacts for the economy and communities in the North of England and beyond.

And while our leading #N8women are important, enabling their achievements are women in research offices, in libraries, in technical roles, in information services, research assistants and PhD students.  There are public engagement officers and communications officers and cleaners.   Each one of them strengthens our partnership through their contribution to research and the environment in which research happens.  These are the unsung heroes of our research body that we also need to remember and celebrate on International Women’s Day.

All #N8women deliver our vision of making the N8 Research Partnership an exceptionally effective cluster of research innovation and training excellence; we celebrate all of your contributions and thank you for everything that you do. Read more about the women below or find out about them on our social channels by searching #N8Women.

Professor Dame Sue Black

Professor Dame Sue Black from Lancaster University pioneered research techniques to identify an individual by their hand alone, a technique that has been used successfully in Court to identify perpetrators in relation to child abuse cases. Images have been taken from more than 5000 participants to form an open-source dataset which has allowed a breakthrough in the study of anatomical variation.

Professor Diana Williams

Professor Diana Williams from The University of Liverpool has led research with Farming Online into a digital application that predict when and where disease is likely to occur. This is hoped to help combat the £300m per year UK agriculture loses per year through the liver fluke parasite which affects livestock across the globe.

Professor Louise Heathwaite

Professor Louise Heathwaite from Lancaster University has gained not only international recognition for her research into environmental pollution and water quality, but she also received the royal seal of approval after being awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2018.

Professor Sue Black

Professor Sue Black from Durham University has helped support 100 women retrain into tech roles thanks to the development of online programme, TechUP. Supported by the Institute of Coding, the programme lasts six months and concludes with a job interview, internship or apprenticeship.

Dr Anna Olsson-Brown

Dr Anna Olsson-Brown from the University of Liverpool has been instrumental in research into next-generation drugs that can treat patients with more advanced, malignant cancers and help them deal with the toxicity that can accompany novel therapies.

Professor Katherine Denby

Professor Katherine Denby, Director of N8 Agrifood, based at the University of York has been at the forefront of developing novel ways to enhance and enable breeding of crops resistance to environmental stress and disease.
Most recently, she was involved in the development of a genetic control system that enables plants to strengthen their defence response against deadly pathogens.

Doctor Louise Ellis

Dr Louise Ellis, Director of Sustainability at the University of Leeds has been leading their campaign – Single Out: 2023PlasticFree – crucially commits the University and Union to phase out single-use plastic across the board, not just in catering and office spaces.

Professor Philippa Browning

Professor Philippa Browning from the University of Manchester wanted to be an astronaut when she was a child but found that there was a lack of female role models in her field. She is leading work on the interactions between plasmas and magnetic fields and is a mentor for young solar physicists.

Doctor Anh Phan

Dr Anh Phan is a Lecturer of Chemical Engineering in the School of Engineering at Newcastle University. She has been leading research into cold plasma pyrolysis, a process that could be used to turn plastic waste into green energy. This is a novel process that could revolutionise our problem with plastic and realise the true value of plastic waste.


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