Chair of the Athena Forum: Jeremy Sanders


Jeremy Sanders was born in London in 1948, and studied for his B.Sc. in Chemistry at Imperial College, London. He moved to Cambridge to study for his PhD, and then spent a postdoctoral year at Stanford University in California. He returned to Cambridge in 1973 to a junior academic post in Chemistry. He was promoted through the ranks, becoming a Professor in 1996, and was Head of Chemistry from 2000–2006. He led the University’s 800th anniversary year-long celebrations in 2009, was Head of the School of Physical Sciences 2009–2011, and then Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional Affairs until his formal retirement in 2015. His responsibilities as PVC included the wellbeing of 11,000 staff, and particularly Equality and Diversity. He was elected FRS in 1995, appointed CBE in 2014, and is one of the “175 Faces” recognized by the Royal Society of Chemistry for contributions to Equality and Diversity. He remains active in research, is currently Editor-in-Chief of Royal Society Open Science and is also a member of the Council of Imperial College. 

Deputy Chair of the Athena Forum: Eugenie Hunsicker


Dr. Eugenie Hunsicker is a senior lecturer in mathematics at Loughborough University.  She has been involved in promoting women in mathematics and science since her undergraduate days, and is currently the Chair of the London Mathematical Society’s Women in Mathematics Committee.  Her research background is in topology and in analysis of singular geometric partial differential equations, and her current research interests are in applying tools from topology, geometry and analysis to statistics of high dimensional data.

Inter Academy Panel: Howard Alper


Howard Alper is currently Chair of the Government of Canada's Science, Technology, and Innovation Council(STIC), and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Ottawa. The basic research Alper has been pursuing spans organic and inorganic chemistry, with potential applications in the pharmaceutical, petrochemical, and commodity chemical industries.

Alper has received a number of prestigious Fellowships including the E.W.R. Steacie (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, 1980 82), Guggenheim (1985 86), and Killam (1986 88) Fellowships. Major awards to Alper include the Alcan Award for Inorganic Chemistry (1986), Bader Award for Organic Chemistry (1990), Steacie Award for Chemistry (1993), all of the Canadian Society for Chemistry. The Chemical Institute of Canada has presented Alper with the Catalysis Award (1984), the Montreal Medal (2003), and the CIC Medal (1997), its highest honour. He also received the Urgel Archambault Prize (ACFAS) in physical sciences and engineering.

In 2000, the Governor General of Canada presented him with the first Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal in Science and Engineering. The following year, he was given the National Merit Award for contributions to the Life Sciences. In 2002, he received the Le Sueur Memorial Award of the Society of Chemical Industry (U.K.). In 2004, he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Chemical Research Society of India, in 2006, an Honorary Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada, and in March 2013, was made an Honorary Foreign Member of the Chemical Society of Japan(CSJ), the first Canadian ever to be so honoured by the CSJ. He was also elected as a Honorary Member of the Colombian Academy of Sciences in 2011, and of the Mexican Academy of Sciences in 2009.

He has served on a number of NSERC committees (e.g. Committee on Research Grants), and as Chair of Boards and Committees including, amongst others, the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE), Council of Canadian Academies, Canadian Research Knowledge Network, and the Steacie Institute of Molecular Sciences. He was also Visiting Executive at the International Development Research Centre during 2006-2010.

Alper was appointed in 1996 as a Titular Member of the European Academy of Arts, Sciences, and Humanities, and in 2003 as a member of TWAS-the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World. He was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1999, and in 2002 he received the award of Officer, National Order of Merit, by the President of the Republic of France. In 2012, he received the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal. In 2014, President Napolitano of the Republic of Italy, bestowed the award of Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic to Alper, He was named President of the Royal Society of Canada for a two-year term commencing November 2001, and was its Foreign Secretary from 2004-2010.. In 2004, he was elected to a three-year term as Co-Chair of the InterAmerican Network of Academies of Science (IANAS). In December 2006, he was elected Co-Chair of IAP: The Global Network of Science Academies, for a three-year term, and in January, 2010, was re-elected to a second three year term as Co-Chair. In 2010, he was also appointed for a three year term to the U.S. National Science Foundation Advisory Committee for International Science and Engineering, to the Science Advisory Committee of the World Economic Forum, to the Board of the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences-Next Einstein Initiative, to the Advisory Board of the Young Global Academy, and as Vice-Chair of the RIKEN Advisory Council. In 2011, he was elected as Chair of the International Advisory Board of the Knowledge Economy Network headquartered in Brussels. In 2007, he was appointed Chair of the Government of Canada's Science, Technology and Innovation Council(STIC) which provides advice to Cabinet and the Prime Minister on science, technology and innovation issues, and the Council also issues a State of the Nation reports every two years benchmarking Canada's performance on a global basis. The inaugural report was released in May, 2009, the second report appeared in June, 2011, and the third report was released in May, 2013. In December, 2012, the Government of Canada reappointed him to a third term as Chair of the STIC.

He is passionate about Canada, research and chocolate.

Royal Society of Chemistry: Polly Arnold


Polly holds the Crum Brown Chair of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. She obtained degrees from Oxford and Sussex and was a Fulbright postdoctoral fellow at MIT before returning to the UK to a lectureship in 1999. Her research is focused on the design and synthesis of highly reactive f-block complexes that can activate inert small molecules such as carbon oxides, dinitrogen, and hydrocarbons, and that can provide fundamental information on structure and bonding at the bottom of the periodic table. 

Polly is an active advocate for inclusion and diversity in STEM. Since her production of ‘A Chemical Imbalance’, supported by the Rosalind Franklin award from the Royal Society in 2012, she has given lectures around the world, advised the Government and industry, and appears regularly on TV, radio, and in print media, to discuss the importance and benefits of diversity in the STEM workforce She was awarded an OBE in 2017 for services to chemistry and women in STEM.

Royal Society of Biology: Caroline Austin


Caroline Austin was born on a farm in Cornwall in 1961. She studied for a BSc in Biochemistry at Chelsea College, London and a PhD in Molecular Biology at University College, London. She carried out post-doctoral research at St Georges, London  and Harvard, USA. She took up an academic post in Newcastle University  in 1993, she was promoted to a Professor in 2005.   She is an internationally recognised scientist with 36 years’ experience of research in biological science. For the past 25 years, she has headed a research team at the University of Newcastle, focused on the biochemistry, molecular pharmacology and cellular functions of type II DNA topoisomerases, which are the target of several major anticancer drugs. For the past decade she has actively contributed both nationally and locally to the UK Athena SWAN process, nationally as a panel member assessing applications at the ECU in London and locally by reading and commenting upon many applications for Athena SWAN awards from across Newcastle University and from other Universities. She is an elected Council member of the Royal Society of Biology, and is the RSB Diversity Champion from May 2018. She was a panel member on the MRC Non-Clinical Career Development Panel when the six-year time limit between obtaining a PhD and being able to apply for a Fellowship was removed to increase the diversity of scientists eligible to apply. She gave an EMBO WOMEN IN SCIENCE lecture at an international EMBO workshop in Sept 2017. In addition to the national and international activities detailed above, Caroline is also a member of the Faculty Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle University.

Institute of Physics: Mark Hughes

Mark Hughes is a Senior Lecturer and the Deputy Director of Teaching & Learning in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester. He has two daughters and a flexible working agreement with the university. He leads his department’s Athena SWAN/Juno committee, sits on his faculty’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee, is a member of the university-level Athena SWAN SAT and sits on the university’s Disability Consultative Group. He led a project to produce a well-received HEA/Physical Sciences Centre resource to help staff in Higher Education support students with Asperger’s Syndrome. He also produced a guide to inclusive learning for the physical sciences for the HEA. He is currently the Chair of the Institute of Physics’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee.

Academy of Medical Sciences: Philippa Saunders


Philippa Saunders has a PhD from the University of Cambridge and undertook postdoctoral fellowships in the USA and London before moving to Edinburgh. She is currently Dean of Postgraduate Research for the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.

Her research has included seminal studies on the role of sex steroid hormones in reproductive health and disease. Her contributions to reproductive health research were recognized by the award of a prestigious RCOG Fellowship ad eundem in 2015.

Philippa is passionate about training and mentorship of the next generation of scientists and clinicians. I am proud of having supervised 30 PhD, 27 MSc and numerous undergraduate students to successful completion, and mentored many others. Since 2012 I have been the Director of Postgraduate Research for the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. I have served as a member of the Athena Swan committee of the College and deployed funding from the College budget to support maternity pay for postgraduate students. As Registrar at the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) I have led on several initiatives supporting talented researchers including Chairmanship of the Springboard Grants panel (a grant scheme for early career researchers), as a member of the careers committee, as a mentor and supporting women through the Academy Sustain programme. I was a member of the AMS working party on Team Science which focused developing recommendations to improve the career prospects of early career researchers.

Royal Academy of Engineering: Nilay Shah


Nilay Shah received his MEng (1988) and PhD (1992) degrees in Chemical Engineering from Imperial College London, where he is currently Head of Department. He is a member of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Its purpose is to advise and have oversight of the all Diversity and Inclusion Programme strands of work including that with employers, professional engineering institutions and within the Academy itself, and Nilay’s focus is on Diversity and Inclusion in engineering academic departments, including students and staff.

BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT: Carron Shankland


Carron Shankland is a professor in Computing Science at the University of Stirling. In 2016 she was one of twelve women in Computing and Mathematics to receive a Suffrage Science Award, recognising both scientific achievement and ability to inspire others. Carron is passionate about the promotion of careers in science for women, having initiated and led the Athena SWAN programme of actions at Stirling for four years. She chairs the BCS Women in Computing Research Group and is building a good practice network of computing departments engaged in gender equality work (CygnetS).  She is an active researcher in computational biology: understanding the behaviour of biological systems through mathematical and computational models. A current project is in modelling cancer therapies to try to understand how the actions of therapies might combine to greater effect. 

Royal Society of Chemistry: Lesley Yellowlees


Professor Lesley Yellowlees CBE BSc PhD FRSC FRSE
Vice-Principal and Head of the College of Science & Engineering
The University of Edinburgh

Lesley Yellowlees CBE, is currently Vice Principal and Head of the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked with the Royal Society of Chemistry for many years and became their first female President in July 2012.

She is a champion for the promotion of women in science and in 2011 was honoured by the IUPAC as a Distinguished Woman in Chemistry for her scientific contributions to the global chemistry community. Her research interests include inorganic electrochemistry and spectroelectrochemistry, epr spectroscopy, solar energy and CO2 conversion. Her other interests include the public engagement of science and the promotion of women in science.

She was awarded an MBE in 2005 for services to science and a CBE in 2014 for services to chemistry. She was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2012 and an Honorary FRSC in 2016. She has honorary degrees from Aberdeen, Bristol, Edinburgh Napier, Heriot-Watt, The Open and Strathclyde Universities. Lesley is married to Peter and they have two children, Sarah and Mark.

The Royal Society: Veronica Van Heyningen


Veronica van Heyningen was educated at Cambridge (BA Natural Sciences 1968) Northwestern University, Illinois (MS 1970) and Oxford (DPhil 1973). Human genetics has been the focus of her work throughout her career, most of which was at the MRC Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh. She was a Beit Memorial Fellow 1973-1976 at the MRC Mammalian Genome Unit in Edinburgh and then joined the predecessor institute of MRC HGU in 1977 after two short career breaks. Her major strands of work focused on genetic mechanisms in human disease and development, particularly on several key transcription factors found to be implicated in developmental abnormalities of the eye. The mechanisms of gene expression control, through tissue-specific enhancers in large non-coding regions flanking and within the introns of these genes, emerged as an important theme for discovery. Veronica was a Group Leader and Section Head from 1992, and a Howard Hughes International Research Scholar (1993-8). She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1997), Academy of Medical Sciences (1999), EMBO (2003), and the Royal Society (2007). A CBE was bestowed in 2010. Veronica was President of the European Society of Human Genetics in 2003 and of the Genetics Society from 2009-2012. On retirement from MRC HGU at the end of 2012, she became an Honorary Professor at UCL attached to the Institute of Ophthalmology (, and renewed as Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh. She has served as a Trustee of the National Museums of Scotland and as a founder member of the Human Genetics Commission. She is currently President of the Galton Institute, and a member of the Royal Society’s Diversity Committee.
March 2017