Durham academic receives award from Royal Society to promote women in STEM

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Professor Karen Johnson from Durham University’s Department of Engineering has been awarded the prestigious Rosalind Franklin Award for her work in environmental engineering and her commitment to engaging women in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

The Rosalind Franklin Award was established by the Royal Society in 2003 in honour of biophysicist Rosalind Franklin, who was crucial in our understanding of the fine molecular structures of DNA. It is awarded annually to an individual for “a project to promote women in STEM,” and the winner is awarded a grant of £40,000 for a project to “raise the profile of women in STEM”.

Professor Johnson studied at University College London and Newcastle University, before joining Durham University in 2005 as Professor of Environmental Engineering. An established academic, she has previously been awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize in Engineering in 2011 and the NESTA Crucible Award in 2008. Her work takes a focus in developing sustainable soil improvement technologies, aiming to regenerate areas with degraded soil.

She has helped to highlight in her work the importance of healthy soil in addressing climate change: healthy soil can contain greater levels of carbon and water, which reduces the likelihood of temperature change, floods, and droughts.

The Rosalind Franklin Award is awarded to an academic to pursue “a project to promote women in STEM”

Royal Society

The funding from the award will go towards a four-year project to educate ‘Generation Alpha’ (those born in the 2010s and 2020s) on soil health and soil-related civil engineering. Over 400 pupils and 25 teachers across County Durham are expected to take part, with a focus on encouraging female pupils to take an interest in STEM-related fields.

The team will work with Outdoor Activity and Sustainability Educational Specialists to create teaching materials that will illuminate the often overlooked role that soil has in our ecosystem and in reducing the impacts of climate change.

Durham University Women in STEM spoke to Palatinate about their enthusiasm towards Professor Johnson receiving this award: “[it] is an inspiring example to all our members and a reminder that here at Durham we are surrounded by a multitude of amazing Women in STEM.”

They added: “However, there is still work to be done balancing the gender gap in STEM fields and over the coming academic year we hope to build on Prof Johnson’s success by providing numerous events and opportunities for all our members.”


One thought on “Durham academic receives award from Royal Society to promote women in STEM

  • Congratulations to the Durham academic for receiving the Royal Society award, further promoting women in STEM.


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