Chemical engineers awarded in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2020

Published:  19 October, 2020

Chemical engineers and Fellows of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) Jane Atkinson and Nilay Shah have been recognised in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for their outstanding contributions to chemical engineering.

Atkinson, executive director, Engineering and Automation at Bilfinger, UK was honoured with a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to chemical engineering. At Bilfinger, she is responsible for all of the engineering design, technical, fabrication, major projects, automation and digitalisation services to the UK’s major blue chip companies.

Atkinson has 30 years of experience in the profession starting at British Steel, where she was also the first woman in the world to manage the casthouse of a blast furnace, before moving into the power generation sector, managing coal and gas fired assets, including the UK’s first Biomass Power Plant.

As an IChemE Trustee and Chair of its UK Board, she brings her technical and leadership skills and passion to the volunteer role, supporting members through mentoring programmes, whilst helping to create a more sustainable and business-like Institution.

She has won several awards, most notably in 2019 being named the most influential woman in UK engineering in an annual list produced by board appointments firm Inclusive Boards.

Atkinson said:

“I’m deeply honoured to have been awarded a CBE for services to chemical engineering. I am grateful for this recognition of my work and I am very proud to be a chemical engineer.”

Professor Nilay Shah, Professor of Process Systems Engineering and Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London, UK was awarded an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to the decarbonisation of the UK economy.

He has spent his entire career at Imperial from undergraduate level to holding several leadership positions, including Director of Imperial’s Centre for Process Systems Engineering. His work focusses on modelling, design and optimisation of process and energy systems. Some of his most notable work includes modelling and optimising technologies for carbon capture and storage systems, and in minimising the cost of bio-ethanol production.

Shah has also been an active volunteer with IChemE, supporting fellow chemical engineers through various roles. This includes as a mentor for IChemE accredited company training schemes and on the editorial panel for the Chemical Engineering Research and Design journal.

He was Vice Chair of the National Engineering Policy Centre’s working group that produced a paper with recommendations for a COVID-19 recovery plan to put the UK on track for its net zero target. Shah has also been awarded several accolades for his work, such as IChemE’s Senior Moulton Medal in 2019.

Shah said:

“I was really delighted and humbled to hear about this honour. I must admit I was very surprised when I first got the message! It’s great to see engineering research recognised in this way. Of course it's the culmination of the work of a lot of people and I'm very lucky to have had so many talented researchers in my research group and successful collaboration with the other engineers and scientists within the community over the years.”

IChemE President Stephen Richardson said:

“I’m absolutely delighted that Jane and Nilay have been recognised by the Queen for their contributions to chemical engineering. These well-deserved honours are testament to their expertise and ongoing dedication to the profession, as well as their support to generations of chemical engineers.

“Their leading work in industry and academia is positively contributing to the development of sustainable processes and optimised energy production which will deliver significant benefits to wider society. I would like to extend congratulations to them both on behalf of IChemE: they truly are an inspiration to us all.”

Atkinson and Shah join 1,493 others across the UK recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year.

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