Heather Williams (physicist)

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Heather Williams
Heather Williams.jpg
Heather Williams at work with her PET scanner
Born20 June 1977
OccupationMedical physicist
EmployerThe Christie NHS Foundation Trust
Known forPositron Emission Tomography, Innovations in Medical Imaging, Women in Science

Heather Williams (born 1977) is a British medical physicist working as Principal Medical Physicist for Nuclear Medicine at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust. She is also a lecturer in the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health at University of Manchester, as well as the University of Salford and University of Cumbria.

Early life and education[edit]

Heather Williams was born on 20 June 1977 in Kingston upon Hull, and was state-educated in the east of the city. Williams completed a BSc in Physics with Medical Physics at the University of Nottingham, before an MSc in Physics and Computing with Medicine and Biology at the University of Manchester.[1] During her postgraduate training at Christie Hospital, she completed placements in nuclear medicine, diagnostic radiology, magnetic resonance imaging and radiotherapy. In 2004, Williams gained a PhD entitled "Developing quantitative measures for clinical response assessment using Positron Emission Tomography" from UMIST.[1]


Since completing her PhD, Williams has worked for the NHS, first at Central Manchester University Hospitals and currently at The Christie. Her role is to provide scientific support to routine imaging and improve this through research, development and teaching. Her imaging research spans a wide range of topics, including gamma camera and PET performance assessment, quantifying radiotracer uptake, designing methods for clinical research using brain, vascular and cancer imaging, and more unusual projects like imaging mechanisms to remove radioactivity from the environment and tracking breathing motion using the Microsoft Kinect.[2] Williams is a state-registered Clinical Scientist, an honorary lecturer at the University of Manchester and member of the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM) and the Institute of Physics (IOP).[1]

Policy and public engagement[edit]

Williams is an advocate for science communication to non-expert audiences.[3] She regularly gives public lectures and contributes to panel discussions at schools, universities, conferences and festivals, and has judged a number of high-profile competitions including Big Bang North West and STEM for Britain. She has appeared on stage with Alice Roberts, Brian Cox, Dallas Campbell, Helen Czerski, Jim Al-Khalili and Sophie Scott, amongst others. In 2014 she was recognised by the Science Council as one of the top 100 practising scientists in the UK.[4] Williams has been a science demonstrator on the BBC's Bang Goes the Theory, delivered workshops for Teen Tech, and is a consultant for the Ogden Trust. She regularly contributes to radio and print media, and has contributed expert testimony to Parliament.[5][6]


After the European Commission's efforts to encourage girls into science with their video "Science: It's a Girl Thing!", Williams recognised that there was a national need for scientists to contribute to the gender imbalance within their disciplines. In 2012 Williams established Science Grrl[7], a grassroots national network to celebrate and support women in science. Today she acts as one of three directors of the not-for-profit group, overseeing a range of national activities, co-ordinating the website and organising regular events in Manchester.[8] Science Grrl supports nineteen local chapters across the country, who help to match scientists with speaking opportunities close to them. They have inspired several international groups including the French network WAX.[9] In 2014 Science Grrl published "Through Both Eyes: the Case for a Gender Lens in STEM".[10] Williams' work with ScienceGrrl was recognised in 2015 when the University of Nottingham made her an alumni laureate.[11] Williams is a current member of the IOP's Women in Physics group committee and its former secretary and chair, and now represents the Institute of Physics within the European Platform for Women Scientists (EPWS).[12] In 2017 she was awarded the IOP Phillips Award for distinguished service to the IOP through the Women in Physics Group.[13]


  1. ^ a b c "Get to know your committee... Dr Heather Williams" (PDF). Institute of Physics: Women in Physics Group. 16: 2. 2012.
  2. ^ "Leading Lights – STEM Ambassadors" (PDF). Science in Parliament. 66 (3): 33. Summer 2009.
  3. ^ "EUSP: Experts". European Student Parliaments. 2016. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  4. ^ "The UK's 100 leading practising scientists". Times Higher Education (THE). 17 January 2014. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  5. ^ Ghosh, Pallab (3 October 2012). "Schools 'fail girls in physics'". BBC News. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  6. ^ "Women in the Workplace". sciencegrrl.co.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  7. ^ "ScienceGrrl". sciencegrrl.co.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  8. ^ "The ScienceGrrl Team". sciencegrrl.co.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  9. ^ "Qui sommes-nous, que faisons-nous?". waxscience.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  10. ^ "ScienceGrrl resources & case studies". sciencegrrl.co.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  11. ^ "IPEM > Conferences & Events > MPEC / MEIbioeng 2017 > Members' Day Speakers". ipem.ac.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  12. ^ Physics, Institute of. "Committee". iop.org. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  13. ^ Physics, Institute of. "Phillips Award for distinguished service to the IOP goes to Heather Williams". www.iop.org. Retrieved 2018-02-13.