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IMechE honours exceptional engineers at annual dinner

Tereza Pultarova

A clutch of awards honoured the profession's top achievers at the 2019 Annual Dinner
A clutch of awards honoured the profession's top achievers at the 2019 Annual Dinner

Seven engineers representing all generations have been honoured by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Prestige and Vision Awards 2019 at the Institution’s Annual Dinner, which took place on 21 November, at Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum.

Among the recipients of the Institution’s most prestigious awards were well-known industry veterans such as Sir David Roberts McMurtry, the founder of measurement specialist company Renishaw, and Professor Stuart Clyde Burgess, of the University of Bristol, an expert in design optimisation of mechanical and biomechanical systems.

Sir David and Professor Burgess received the James Watt International Gold Medal and the James Clayton Prize respectively.

The Institution also recognised the achievements of early-career engineers working in fields ranging from biotechnology and materials science to high-performance automotive engineering, and their work in promoting engineering as a profession.

“It is important that we recognise the work of these young people, these ‘visionaries’, who are only starting their careers, and encourage them to press forward,” said IMechE president Professor Joe McGeough. “By awarding these young engineers we hope to inspire others to develop careers in STEM fields.”

Among the recipients of the Visionary Awards were Simon B Wood of Jaguar Land Rover, for his work promoting the IMechE EngTech registration and further career development among early-career engineers and technicians, IMechE volunteer, STEM ambassador and mentor Nicola Grahamslaw, and young engineers Jonathan Shapiro and Jake Niall Cronk. Megan Hadley and her collaborators received the Thomas Hawksley Gold Medal for their research into hip replacement materials. All of these awards are regarded within industry as being prestigious.

IMechE chief executive Colin Brown said: “This is a highlight in the Institution’s annual calendar. It gives our members a chance to ‘meet and correspond’ just as our predecessors intended in our original foundation. Adding in award winners and influential non-members as we do now makes it a celebration of how we are truly ‘improving the world through engineering’.”

 Speaking at the event was Manchester University astrophysicist and associate director of Jodrell Bank Observatory Tim O’Brien, who stressed the need for attracting more young people into engineering and the necessity of finding ways to tap into the potential of the part of the population that might not traditionally get in touch with STEM and therefore not consider a career in a STEM-related profession.

“Big engineering projects have the power to inspire entire generations,” said O’Brien. “I myself come from the generation that was inspired by Apollo and the first lunar landings. But we now face an even bigger challenge, which will also have to be solved by engineers, and that is climate change.”

He said that engineering could also contribute to solving social inequality. He said that children as young as seven feel their career choices will be limited by their gender and social status. 

“We have to bring as many people into the subject as possible,” he said. “It’s still too male-dominated but, even apart from fairness, why would you want to miss out on all this untapped potential?”

Large awe-inspiring projects such as the Jodrell Bank Lovell Telescope have the power to trigger the interest in STEM in young people who may otherwise not come into contact with science and engineering disciplines. 

“Kids whose parents have not been involved with subjects such as engineering, physics and maths may have a very limited understanding of these fields and would not think about them as a possible career choice,” he said. “But if you bring them somewhere like Jodrell Bank and if you show them that there are people of all kinds working on those projects, in many of them you can trigger an interest in those subjects.”

He said that, while there is a well-documented skills gap in engineering and technical professions, a large portion of the population remains untapped and frequently also socially excluded. Attracting more of these people into STEM therefore contributes to solving both problems.

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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