Renowned engineer and dedicated students celebrated during graduation ceremonies

Loughborough University celebrated the achievements of hundreds of students yesterday (Monday) during its graduation ceremonies and awarded an honorary degree to a renowned engineer.

Dame Judith Hackitt was awarded an honorary degree in recognition of her outstanding contribution to health and safety in engineering and as a role model for inspiring young women in the STEM industry.

The award comes at a time when the University is marking 100 years since the first female students were enrolled to study engineering at Loughborough.

Dame Judith’s work includes leading a team which has identified building safety recommendations for the Government to completely overhaul how buildings are constructed and regulated, after the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.

Dame Judith started her career after graduating from Imperial College London in 1975 with a degree in Chemical Engineering.

From here she spent 15 years at Exxon Chemicals' Fawley Refinery before joining chemicals company, Elementis, as its Operations Director.

Her extensive career has seen her taken on many senior roles including Director General of the Chemical Industries Association, Implementation Director of the European Chemical Industry Council, President of the Institute for Chemical Engineers, and Chair of the Health and Safety Executive.

In 2016 she was appointed a Dame in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours in recognition as one of the UK’s foremost female engineers.

The award was also given in recognition of Dame Judith's leadership at the Health and Safety Executive to drive “proportionate and effective” health and safety, and her encouragement for young women to take up STEM careers. 

Dame Judith is currently Chair of Make UK and non-Executive Director and trustee of the Energy Saving Trust. She is a non-Executive Director of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and a trustee of the City & Guilds Group.

Speaking to the students at the graduation ceremony, Dame Judith said: “You must take risks with your career.

"Go for anything that interests you, go for anything that is about your passion and things that you care about.

"But don’t let those opportunities pass because you have the opportunity to change the world. We are here, and we do what we do for the benefit of society.

"Take risks with your career but never ever, take risks with the lives of others in the way that you do your job.”

The winter graduation ceremonies were presided over by Lord Sebastian Coe, Chancellor of Loughborough University, and were an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the class of 2019.

Among the students graduating was Jonathan Wilson, who graduated with a PhD from the University’s Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering.

Jonathan made a breakthrough during his research under the supervision of Professor Graham Hargrave, which revealed an industry-first technology to slash NOx emissions.

Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) are the primary cause of smog in cities and a global health concern.

Modern diesel engines are tightly regulated for NOx emissions, however, the SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) system typically used is ineffective at exhaust temperatures below 250°C, which occur frequently during inner city driving.

The technology called ACCT (Ammonia Creation and Conversion Technology) is pioneering technology that dramatically lowers NOx emissions by allowing SCR systems used in modern diesel engines to continue operating well below these temperatures.

The technology has won multiple awards including The Times Higher Education Awards in the 2017 Technological Innovation of the Year category and Autocar’s 2018 Sturmey Award.

Jonathan, who will continue working at the University as a Research Assistant, said: “I have found the previous few exhilarating working on a technology that I am passionate about and really feel can make a difference to the lived of thousands living with poor air quality.

"It is very gratifying to receive a PhD from an illustrious University such as Loughborough as recognition."

Notes for editors

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