The nominee chosen by the judging panel to receive the title University of Hertfordshire Alumnus of the Year 2014 was Dr Diana Hodgins MBE.
In the late-1980s/early-1990s, the Engineering Council made very strenuous efforts through its WISE ("Women into Science and Engineering") initiative to encourage women to become scientists and engineers - and the country still needs many more women to enter these professions. Dr Diana Hodgins MBE is a wonderful example and a great role-model of a woman who is a brilliant engineer and a very successful entrepreneur.
Sponsored by British Aerospace (BAe) (where she spent her industrial placements), Diana Hodgins undertook a four-year sandwich course in Mechanical Engineering at the Hatfield Polytechnic graduating with a BSc in 1982. During this period she also designed a novel cooling system for electronic equipment and filed a patent, later presented in Florida for BAe Dynamics. Since then Diana has spent her career in industry in a variety of companies although this has not all been plain sailing – she has experienced failure.
Whilst Technical Director at Neotronics Scientific Ltd and developing an "electronic nose" project (which consisted of sensors able to detect decay in food and wine), the project faltered and she lost her job. This experience, however, taught her much and provided the impetus to set up her own company European Technology for Business (ETB) where she is the Managing Director with twenty-seven patents to her name. Diana was one of the first people designing using microsystem technology. She states, "I've always had a passion for engineering; my interest has always swayed in developing smaller systems like Microsystems, rather than large devices like aircraft design".
In the late-1980s, Diana embarked on a Hatfield Polytechnic scheme that allowed her, as a full-time employee in industry, to undertake a doctorate. She wrote her doctoral thesis on sonar and gyroscopes and graduated with a PhD in Solid State Physics in 1990.
Diana's outstanding work was recognized nationally in the Queen's Birthday Honours List 2000 when she was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) "for services to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the East of England". In 2002 she won the prestigious "Woman Inventor of the Year Award for Industry" and was chosen as one of the Ambassadors for the Department of Trade and Industry's Small Business Service.
The University of Hertfordshire awarded her an Honorary Doctorate of Science degree in 2005 for her contribution to innovation in the region.
Diana remains closely associated with the University of Hertfordshire. She was the very inspirational keynote speaker at the University's School of Engineering and Technology "Careers in Engineering" event in January 2014 (attended by over two hundred students). She has also acted as an advisor for the Mechatronics degree (starting later this year), been the inspiration behind the School of Engineering and Technology's vision for a new degree in Biomedical Engineering and is a Visiting Professor in the School of Engineering and Technology.
Diana Hodgins' career is not only an inspiration and a role-model for our current students. For any woman thinking of entering the either science or engineering professions, it is a great example of what can be achieved.