Uschi Steigenberger was formally presented with the award in a ceremony at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on Wednesday 8th February.
Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Jo Johnson said, ““This honour pays tribute to Ursula’s years of hard work and innovation in the sciences. Ursula not only receives this award for her contribution to physics, but as recognition of the careers of budding scientists she has nurtured and the relationships amongst the international scientific community that she has grown. We should be proud of our UK science base and those, like Ursula, who are key to this. Science, research and innovation are key strengths of the UK, underpinning vital elements of our economy and national wellbeing.”
Uschi completed her PhD in Condensed Matter Physics before moving to the Institute Laue Langevin (ILL) in France. She then moved to ISIS to take up a post as instrument scientist on the PRISMA spectrometer. She went on to become group leader of the Excitations Group, then Head of the ISIS Spectroscopy and Support Division before becoming Director of Operations and then Director of ISIS in 2011.
Zoe Bowden, the current Director of ISIS Operations, says, “Uschi played a really important role in the development of ISIS. She was responsible for delivering state of the art neutron spectrometers that really were world class. She devoted an enormous amount of time and energy into the facility, and was instrumental in making ISIS the success it is today.”
L-R Uschi with Andrew Taylor, Zoe Bowden, Colin Carlile and Chick Wilson celebrating the 5th anniversary of ISIS.
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Uschi was also a pioneer in developing the careers of women in physics. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and, as one of the most senior women working in UK physics, was part of the Institute’s pioneering review of women in the physics workplace, which led to the development of the Juno awards to address the under-representation of women in university physics departments. She led by example, but also actively mentored both men and women across STFC to develop their careers.
Sarah Beardsley, now Head of the Space Engineering and Technology Division in RAL Space, was one of many that benefitted from her experience. Sarah says, “It was always a pleasure to spend time with Uschi – she was committed to helping others in STFC to develop their careers and she is a great role model for others to follow. She was always generous with her time, wise with her advice and passionate about what she did. Her work on promoting women in science has left a lasting legacy at STFC, as we are now aiming to achieve the Athena Swan Bronze Award.”
Philip King, current Head of the ISIS Spectroscopy and Support Division, also came under Uschi’s wing. He says, “Uschi was extremely committed to the development of ISIS – its instruments, its international standing, its research community and its people. She was a key ambassador for science, and it was great to have worked with her and learned from her.”
Uschi handed over the role of Director of ISIS to Robert McGreevy in October 2012.
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Andrew Taylor, Director of National Laboratories at STFC, said, “This is really well deserved, she’s has been a close and valued colleague for over 30 years. ISIS wouldn’t be the same without her.”