University of Sheffield engineer wins at the Inspirational Women of Sheffield Awards

An academic from the Faculty of Engineering has won the ‘Pam Liversidge OBE Award for Engineering’ at the 2020 Inspirational Women of Sheffield Awards hosted by the Sheffield Star.

A group photo showing members of the spent fuel research team
Claire (front row, right) and her Spent Fuel Research Team

The award was won by Dr Claire Corkhill, EPSRC Early Career Researcher from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, at the awards ceremony at Kenwood Hall Hotel [Sunday 8 March 2020], for her high-quality research into nuclear waste.

Dr Corkhill’s work examines methods for the long-term safe disposal of radioactive waste. It was her work in reproducing the materials formed when the Fukushima Nuclear Power plant melted down that supported her win along with being recognised at a government level where she sits on HM Government’s Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) - working with experts to provide scrutiny and recommendations on the management and disposal of nuclear waste in the UK.

Claire also won for her passion for equality, having previously been instrumental in increasing the numbers of students taking Material Science at Sheffield. She provides outstanding professional and personal support to both students and those who she directly supervises.

Among her fellow nominees were Professor Elizabeth Cross, EPSRC Innovation Fellow from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Hemanshi Galaiya, 1st Class Honours Chemical & Biological Engineering Alumna who are both highly commended and accomplished women in their field.

On winning the award, Dr Corkhill said: “Receiving the nomination for this award was a complete surprise, and I am extremely grateful that the judges felt that my research in nuclear engineering was worthy. At the very heart of any successful engineering accomplishment are the people who work together, and support each other, through each problem that requires solving. I am deeply proud of the team of young nuclear scientists and engineers, including a number of highly talented women, with whom I work to undertake research in support of the safe disposal of 70 years' worth of nuclear waste. I would like to dedicate this award to them, for their relentless enthusiasm when rising to new research challenges, for their commitment to the highest standards of research and for supporting me always without hesitation.

“When I was younger, I never thought I would be 'good enough' to be an engineer -- I don't think of myself as particularly smart and, when it comes to maths, I'm certainly no Ada Lovelace. But I would like to encourage young women, particularly those studying sciences at school, to see engineers not only as people who invent, design, analyse and manufacture, but as people who also use their creative skills to shape people and ideas to solve the big challenges we face in society today and in the future.”

Claire was unable to attend the awards as she was in the US performing nuclear waste engineering experiments but her PhD students James Mansfield (who nominated Claire) and Hannah Smith accepted the award on her behalf. James said: “Claire’s dedication and clear talent for explaining complex concepts to the public in an easy to digest, jargon-free, manner clearly makes her a worthy winner for this award.”

The Inspirational Women of Sheffield Awards are an opportunity for the public to nominate prominent women who have made a difference to the lives of others. There were 12 award categories that included engineering, entertainment, science and sportt.