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Pioneer in female engineering receives honorary degree from Northumbria

7th December 2016

Professor Dame Ann Dowling, first female President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, has received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Northumbria University for her contributions in the field of engineering.

After acquiring a PhD in aeroacoustics from Cambridge University, she became the University’s first female Professor of Engineering in 1993, taking charge as Head of Department from 2009 until 2014. Professor Dowling has also held visiting posts at two of the world’s leading tech-focused institutions in the US; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and The California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Professor Dowling’s research is mainly aimed at low-emission combustion and reducing noise from vehicles and aircraft. One of the key elements of her work has been the Silent Aircraft Initiative, a joint Cambridge and MIT project, which demonstrated how to integrate ultra-low noise technologies into an aircraft design, a concept now being taking further by NASA.

In 2002, Professor Dowling was appointed CBE by the Queen for her services to mechanical engineering, as well as a DBE for services to science in 2007, which is the second highest Order of the British Empire.

She was also asked to join the highly prestigious Order of Merit (OM) in December 2015 by Her Majesty the Queen. OM only has 24 living members at a time; some of the members include Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Sir David Attenborough, and Sir Tim-Berners Lee (who invented the World Wide Web in 1989). The late Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa were also honorary members. Professor Dowling is the first female engineer and 10th woman in 100 years to join the OM. She was admitted for her exceptional advances in the field of mechanical engineering, with almost 40 years of experience in aeronautics and energy.

Professor Dowling has several significant roles within the industry and government. Following her appointment, in her role as President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, she was asked by then Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, to lead a review of how the Government could develop more effective collaborations between businesses and British university researchers. The Dowling Review was completed in July 2015 and provided guidance and approaches needed to solve the gaps in the previous system.

The Patron of the Women’s Society, Professor Dowling is highly passionate about encouraging young people, especially girls, to follow in her footsteps and focuses a lot of her energy in promoting engineering careers for women. In 2013, she was listed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by the BBC’s Woman’s Hour.

Professor Ann Dowling said: “I am delighted and very honoured to receive this recognition from Northumbria University. I look forward to receiving an Honorary Doctorate from the University and to sharing this very special occasion with the students who will be graduating on the same day.” 

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