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Judy Raper named Australia’s top female engineer

UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) awarded prestigious Ada Lovelace Medal

University of Wollongong Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Judy Raper has won the Ada Lovelace Medal for Outstanding Woman Engineer, a national award given annually by UNSW’s Faculty of Engineering.

A chemical engineer with expertise in air and water pollution control and a former senior official in the U.S. National Science Foundation, Professor Raper collected the medal at a ceremony at the Botanic Gardens Restaurant in Sydney.

Professor Raper was appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at UOW in 2008. Prior to then she had a storied career in education and management at the universities of Newcastle, Sydney and UNSW as well as the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

She is a former director of chemical, bioengineering, environmental and transport systems at the National Science Foundation in Washington, and worked at the UK’s Atomic Energy Research Establishment.

As someone who has championed the cause of diversity in engineering throughout her career, Professor Raper said she was honoured to receive the Ada Lovelace Medal, which recognises the contribution women have made to engineering and to wider Australian society.

“I am thrilled to be recognised by my peers with this award, especially as it is named for Ada Lovelace who was a true innovator and a truly inspirational woman,” Professor Raper said.

“In terms of diversity, engineering has come a long way since I began my career in the 1980s, but we still have a long way to go. We have gone from six per cent of engineers being women then, to around 18 or 20 per cent now so there is a lot of room for improvement still, and we in the university sector have a big role to play in keeping up the momentum for change.

“For engineering, achieving greater diversity in all its forms is important not just because it is the right thing to do, but also because it will lead to greater innovation and to better solutions to the complex problems that the world faces.”

Professor Mark Hoffman, UNSW’s Dean of Engineering, said Professor Raper was an outstanding member of the profession: “Judy is a chemical engineer who’s built an impressive career in traditionally male-dominated arenas over the past of 40 years. She’s an inspiration to us all, but especially young women. She shows that engineering is a discipline that can take you anywhere.”

Professor Raper is the third winner of the Ada Lovelace Medal. The previous winners were former NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer and now Chair of NSW's Planning Assessment Commission Mary O’Kane, who received it in 2016, and Kathryn Fagg, former Reserve Bank board member and now chairman of building materials group Boral, who received the award in 2017.

In 2012, Professor Raper was named by the Australian Financial Review and Westpac as one of Australia’s ‘100 Women of Influence’, and in 2015 was named in the ‘Top 100 Influential Engineers’ by Engineers Australia for the third year running.

In 2017, she won the Chemeca Medal, the most prestigious award in chemical engineering in Australia and New Zealand, awarded to a chemical engineer who has made an outstanding contribution to the practice of chemical engineering and who continues to serve the profession.

Professor Raper is a fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE), an Honorary Fellow of Engineers Australia and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

The Ada Lovelace Medal is named for Augusta Ada Byron, later Countess Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician who worked on Charles Babbage’s revolutionary mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Her remarkable notes on the engine in the 1840s include what is recognised today as the first computer algorithm, making her the world’s first computer programmer. Her story reminds us that women have been in engineering for a long time, and making vital contributions.

Caption: UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation) Professor Judy Raper at the 2018 Women in Engineering Awards. Photo: Jacquie Manning