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Leading bioscientist highlighted in portrait collection

8 March 2006

Professor Julia Goodfellow’s achievement in becoming the first female chief executive of a UK Research Council will today (8 March) be marked by her inclusion in a contemporary portrait collection to celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of six world class British women working in science, engineering and technology (SET).

Professor Goodfellow, who, as chief executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is responsible for over £350M of public investment in cutting edge bioscience research, will join five other women who have achieved leadership positions in SET.

The collection has been commissioned by the UK Resource Centre for Women in SET (UKRC) and executed by acclaimed photographer, Robert Taylor. It offers a personal interpretation of the groundbreaking women and will be shown for the first time at the British Library at the UKRC's 2nd annual conference. The collection will be enlarged each year to create a comprehensive and inspiring legacy for future generations.

Professor Goodfellow commented, ‘It is a real honour to be included with such wonderful women in this collection. Within the biosciences, we know that there is a good take up of the subject at university and through to postgraduate training with over 60 per cent of undergraduates being female. However, we still have the situation that only ten per cent of bioscience professors are women. I hope that this collection will help to inspire the best female scientists to continue with their careers.’

The women featured in the collection come from a variety of backgrounds, linked by their outstanding contributions to pioneering work, for which many of them have received international recognition. The photographed women were nominated to take part in the exhibition earlier this year. A judging panel selected two finalists to be photographed in each of the following three categories:

Scientific Discovery and SET Innovation:

  • Jocelyn Bell Burnell CBE, FRS Visiting Chair in Astrophysics at the University of Oxford, whose research on pulsars was recognised by a NobelPrize to her supervisor
  • Professor Wendy Hall CBE, Head of School of Electronics & Computer Science at the University of Southampton, one of the world's leading computer scientist

Science Communication:

  • Professor Kathy Sykes, who holds the Collier Chair for Public Engagement of Science & Engineering at the University of Bristol, regarded as a leading figure in Britain promoting public engagement in science (regular presenter of BBC's Rough Science and other BBC science/society programmes)
  • Dr Maggie Aderin, Senior Project Manager of Space Science at SIRA Technology Ltd, and runs a public engagement company in her spare time aiming to improve the participation of girls and ethnic minorities in science

Breaking through the Glass Ceiling into Leadership:

  • Professor Julia Goodfellow CBE, FMedSci, Chief Executive of the Biotechnology & Biological Research Council, the first female chief executive of any UK Research Council
  • Rebecca George OBE, who manages IBM's Central Government Business in the UK and is one of the most senior women in the 25,000 strong company. Her achievements earned her an OBE in 2005


Notes to editors

Biographies of the six women are available. Please contact UKRC.

Photographer, Robert Taylor, currently has collections in the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Professor Goodfellow joined BBSRC in January 2002 after more than 20 years at Birkbeck College, University of London, where she was Vice-Master and head of the School of Crystallography. She has been responsible for an internationally recognised research group and her ongoing research interests include the use of computer simulation techniques to study the structure and function of large molecules. She was appointed Vice-Master of Birkbeck College in 1998 and Professor of Biomolecular Science in 1995.

Professor Goodfellow’s scientific career began with an undergraduate degree in physics at the University of Bristol. She then completed a PhD in biophysics at the Open University Oxford Research Unit. After completing her studies, Professor Goodfellow took up a post-doctoral appointment in the Department of Chemistry at Stanford University, USA. She later returned to the UK to work as a research officer, then lecturer and reader in the Department of Crystallography at Birkbeck College.

From 1997-2001, Professor Goodfellow was a member of BBSRC’s Council. She is a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Institute of Biology, the Institute of Physics and the Royal College of Arts. She was awarded a CBE in 2001.

Professor Goodfellow is the first female Chief Executive of any of the UK’s Research Councils. She is married, and has two children. Her interests outside science include feminist detective fiction and making tapestries.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.


Professor Julia Goodfellow CBE, FMedSci, Chief Executive of the Biotechnology & Biological Research Council, the first female chief executive of any UK Research Council (253 KB).

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Note that this image is protected by copyright law and may be used with acknowledgement of UK Resource Centre for Women in SET (UKRC).

External contact

Naoimi Sullivan, UKRC

tel: 07710 830072

Kathryn McLaughlin, UKRC

tel: 07899 693401


Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382