Internationally recognised as a nuclear engineering expert, Dr Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng is to receive one of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s most prestigious accolades – the President’s Medal – for her outstanding service to the nuclear industry, the Academy itself and to the wider world of engineering.

Dame Sue will become the first woman to win the medal since it was inaugurated in 1987. She will be presented with the award on Wednesday 2 July by Academy President Sir John Parker GBE FREng at the annual Academy Awards Dinner to be held at London’s Royal Opera House.

The President’s Medal recognises significant contribution to the Academy’s aims and work through the recipient’s initiative in promoting excellence in engineering. Previous winners include the renowned architect Jim Eyre OBE, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Design Sir Jonathan Ive KBE RDI FREng and the late Professor Tony Kelly CBE DL FREng FRS of the University of Cambridge, widely regarded as the father of composite materials.

As one of the UK’s foremost nuclear engineers, Dame Sue was appointed Chair of the Nuclear Innovation Research Advisory Board by the Government in January 2014. She has served two terms between 2004 and 2011 on the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology, where her contributions were acknowledged as substantial in its energy-related work. She represents the UK on the European Commission EURATOM Science and Technology Committee and is an international member of the US Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy Research Advisory Committee.

Born in Cumbria, Dame Sue attended Penwortham Girls’ School in Lancashire, where she was Head Girl. She revisited her school last year for a Radio 4 interview following her inclusion in the first Woman’s Hour Power List. She graduated in Materials Science from Imperial College London, followed by a PhD in Metallurgy and joined British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) as Technical Officer, soon to lead a project which revolutionised the manufacture of nuclear fuel. She eventually became Technology Director for the entire company in 1992, a position she held until she stepped down in 2006.

Dame Sue was elected to the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1996 and has chaired its Awards Committee, the Engineering Policy Committee and served as a Vice President and member of its Council. In 2012 she chaired a membership review group, which recommended substantial changes to the way Fellows are nominated to the Academy. She has played a leading role in the Academy’s work on energy policy, both on nuclear power and on energy policy in the widest sense, chairing the 2010 report Generating the future, which considered supply and demand scenarios for the whole energy system in 2050.

She has served the engineering and science professions as a member of a remarkable number of committees, boards and councils, including the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the DECC Scientific Advisory Group.

Academy President Sir John Parker says: “Our Academy – and the UK in general – has benefited hugely from Sue Ion’s exceptional engineering expertise combined with an unerring ability to reduce complex technical concepts to plain language. This makes her an invaluable media spokesperson and a highly effective critic of ill-informed energy policy.

“She has also done much to promote engineering as a career, particularly to encourage more young women to consider science and engineering careers.”

Dame Sue says:

“To be recognised by the Royal Academy of Engineering in this way and to be working with the best engineers in the UK is really special and an incredible privilege. I am honoured and thrilled to receive this award.

“Engineering excellence is so important to our national well being and international success so I am delighted to be able to contribute in any way I can. The more that can be done to incorporate sound engineering judgement and advice in evolving policy and the more that can be done to encourage the next generation of engineers the better.”

Notes for Editors

  1. The President’s Medal is awarded to an Academy Fellow or other individual who has contributed significantly to the organisation’s aims and work through their initiative in promoting excellence in engineering.
    The President's Medal
  2. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering.We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place  to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.We have four strategic challenges: Drive faster and more balanced economic growth; foster better education and skills; lead the profession; promote engineering at the heart of society.

For more information please contact:

Jane Sutton at the Royal Academy of Engineering 
Tel: 020 7766 0636
Email: Jane Sutton

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