Julia Higgins

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Dame Julia Higgins
Born Julia Stretton Downes
(1942-07-01) 1 July 1942 (age 74)[1]
Alma mater Somerville College, Oxford (MA, DPhil)
Notable awards

Dame Julia Stretton Higgins DBE FRS HonFRSC FREng (née Downes; born 1 July 1942) is a polymer scientist. Since 1976 she has been based at the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London, where she is currently Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Investigator.[1][2][3][4][5][6]


Higgins was educated at Somerville College, Oxford where she was awarded Master of Arts and DPhil degrees.[citation needed]


Higgins chaired the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME) from 2008-2012. She is also a former chair (1998–2003) of the Athena Project, which aims for the advancement of women in science, engineering and technology (SET) in Higher Education. Between 2003 and 2007, she was also chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Higgins was president of the Institution of Chemical Engineers 2002–3, and president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science 2003–4. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1995[7] and was its Foreign Secretary 2001-06.[citation needed]

She is a Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, the Royal Academy of Engineering,[8] and the City and Guilds of London Institute, of which she is Vice-President. She is an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Physics, Royal Society of Chemistry, and Somerville College, Oxford.

She was awarded a CBE in 1996 before being named a dame in the 2001 Queen's Birthday Honours list.[9] Dame Julia replaced Professor Adrian Smith FRS as ACME Chair in September 2008 when Adrian became Director General of Science and Research at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. She holds honorary degrees from a number of UK universities and the University of Melbourne, Australia. Her scientific work has concentrated on the investigation of polymers with neutron scattering.[2] She co-authored a monograph on that field (Higgins & Benoit 1997).[citation needed]

In April 2003 she became Chairman of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. She was succeeded by John Armitt on 1 April 2007. In June 2006 Higgins was appointed Principal of the Faculty of Engineering at Imperial College London. The Faculty of Engineering at Imperial College is one of the largest in the UK, comprising nine departments with 1,000 staff, over 4,200 students and an annual turnover of around £80 million. She is a member of the World Knowledge Dialogue Scientific Board, president of the ESPCI ParisTech Scientific Committee,[10] and "Scientist in Residence" for the first symposium in 2006 in Crans-Montana (Switzerland).[citation needed]

She is a Patron of WISE, a charitable organisation that encourages young women to pursue careers in Science, Engineering and Construction.[11] as well as a member of the Advisory Council for the Campaign for Science and Engineering.[12]

She is currently elected to serve as President-elect of the Institute of Physics from 1 October 2015 to 30 September 2017 and President from 1 October 2017 to 30 September 2019.[13]

Awards and honours[edit]

Higgins was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1989. Her nomination reads:

Other awards and honours include:

She is a foreign member of the National Academy of Engineering of the United States. She was named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2001 Birthday Honours. In March 2010, the UKRC announced Professor Higgins as one of six Women of Outstanding Achievement in Science, Engineering and Technology.[16]

A portrait of her by Tess Barnes was unveiled in June 2014 at Imperial College.[17]

In 1999 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.[8] Most recently, she was Chair of the Royal Society's State of the Nation Report Steering Group.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b HIGGINS, Dame Julia (Stretton). Who's Who 2014 (online edition via Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.  (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b Julia Higgins's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database, a service provided by Elsevier. (subscription required)
  3. ^ "Dame Julia Higgins profile". Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Professor Dame Julia Higgins' profile, Ingenia, September 2007
  5. ^ Symposium Opening speech by Julia Higgins 2008 on YouTube
  6. ^ The Royal Society'sThe Vision Committee's Vision for the future of Science and Maths Education on YouTube, chaired by Julia Higgins
  7. ^ a b "EC/1995/11: Higgins, Dame Julia Stretton". London, UK: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 31 July 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c "List of Fellows". Royal Academy of Engineering. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  9. ^ "The Queen's birthday Honours". 2001. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  10. ^ ESPCI International Scientific Committee
  11. ^ WISE Patrons
  12. ^ "Advisory Council of the Campaign for Science and Engineering". Retrieved 11 February 2011. 
  13. ^ "Dame Julia Higgins to be the IOP's next president-elect". Retrieved 10 July 2015. 
  14. ^ "Board of Trustees". National Gallery. 2010. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  15. ^ webperson@hw.ac.uk. "Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh: Honorary Graduates". www1.hw.ac.uk. Retrieved 2016-04-04. 
  16. ^ THE UK’S MOST OUTSTANDING WOMEN IN SET ANNOUNCED, 25 March 2010; accessed 22 March 2016.
  17. ^ Imperial College News, 23 June 2014; accessed 22 March 2016.
    Imperial unveils historic portrait of leading female scientist