Inspirational Women of Sheffield

Congratulations to Dr Claire Corkhill and Maria de Souza who were recently recognised at the 2020 Inspirational Women of Sheffield Awards.

Hosted by the Sheffield Star, 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 sport. The awards ceremony was held on Sunday 8 March 2020 to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Dr Claire Corkhill, from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, won the Pam Liversidge OBE Award for Engineering in recognition of her high quality research into nuclear waste.

It was her work in reproducing the materials formed when the Fukushima nuclear power plant melted down that supported her win. This is in addition to 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.

Dr Corkhill was also honoured for her passion for equality, having previously been instrumental in increasing the numbers of students studying Material Science at the University, and the proportion of females studying in the department. She is renowned at the institution for providing outstanding professional and personal support to both students and those who she directly supervises.

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.

dr claire corkhill

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.”

Dr Corkhill was unable to attend the awards as she was in the US performing nuclear waste engineering experiments, however 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.”

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

Dr Claire Corkhill

Dr Claire Corkhill and her team

Maria de Souza from the Partnerships and Regional Engagement Team was also honoured in the Inspirational Women of Sheffield Awards for her inspiring dedication to creativity in Sheffield.

Maria was presented with the Sarah Nulty Award for Creativity for her fundamental part in bringing the UK’s largest literary festival – Off the Shelf – to the city and creating its innovative, diverse, eclectic programme.

Maria has been involved in the festival for 28 of its 29 years from when it started in 1991. She has played an instrumental role in bringing some of the biggest names in literature and the arts to Sheffield from Hilary Mantel and Stephen Fry to Benjamin Zephaniah and John Lydon. Off the Shelf has always been known for their creative approach to programming. Nick Hornby was persuaded to come when Maria sent him a valentine with an Arsenal Subbuteo player stuck to the front, (Hornby is of course a lifelong Arsenal supporter), signed 'from a city full of admirers'. Hornby admitted he couldn't resist coming to the festival once he'd received the card.

Maria was nominated for the award by Akeem Balogun a long time volunteer with the festival. Now 28 and a writer, Akeem has his first short story collection out in October which Off the Shelf will be launching at this year's festival.

I'm thrilled to have won the award but I'm only as good as the rest of the team of women I work with and they are all inspirational too!

Maria de souza

The festival has grown year after year and is now established as one of the highlights of the cultural calendar both in Sheffield and across the UK, thanks to the dedication of Maria and the team, in particular Lesley Webster who has been involved in Off the Shelf from its very beginning and has worked with Maria for more than 30 years.

Maria said: "It was an honour to win this award and I feel privileged to work on the Off the Shelf Festival. I am delighted that the festival is so well loved and enjoyed by readers in this city, the region and the country. It's wonderful that we can support local writers and groups and give a platform to new and emerging talent.

“It's also fantastic, contributing to making Sheffield an exciting and vibrant place to live, bringing some of the best writers, thinkers and creative minds here. I am also very proud of the public art featuring text the festival has created that have become permanent beautiful features of our city - from Andrew Motion's poem on the walkway from the station to Jarvis Cocker's words on the side of student flats off London Road.

“I'm thrilled to have won the award but I'm only as good as the rest of the team of women I work with and they are all inspirational too!" 

Maria de Souza

Maria de Souza with her Inspirational Women of Sheffield award