A world authority on combustion and acoustics, Dame Ann has been Head of the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge since 2009. She became a Cambridge research fellow in 1977 and has remained at the university ever since, including visiting research posts at MIT in 1999 and Caltech in 2001. In 1993, she became the Department of Engineering's first ever female professor. In 2002, she was recognised in The Queen's Birthday Honours, receiving a CBE for services to Mechanical Engineering, and again in the 2007 in the New Year's Honours List when she received a DBE for services to science. In 2011, she was awarded a UK Resource Centre award for her 'Inspiration and Leadership in Academia and Research'. In the 2015 New Year's Honours, she was admitted to the Order of Merit.
Dame Ann started her career as a mathematician but always wanted to pursue applied mathematics and did her PhD in engineering acoustics with Prof John Fowcs Williams FREng, who led pioneering noise-reduction research on Concorde. Dame Ann led the Cambridge MIT Silent Aircraft project, which published its radical new design concept SAX-40 in 2006 with the aim of raising aircraft industry aspirations. She now leads research on efficient, low emission combustion for aero and industrial gas turbines and low noise vehicles, particularly aircraft.
Her work in aeronautics and energy has been recognised by fellowships of the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society, as well as foreign associate membership of both the US National Academy of Engineering and the French Academy of Sciences.
In 2004, she chaired the widely respected report produced jointly by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society, Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties, which highlighted the need for responsible regulation and research around the use of materials at an extremely small scale.
Dame Ann is a non-executive director of BP, a non-executive member of the board of BIS, a panel chair for the Research Excellence Framework and was nominated in BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour power list 2013 as one of the 100 most influential women in the country.