Womens Engineering Society: Inspiring women as engineers, scientists and technical leaders

Role Models

Averil MacDonald

Back to list

Professor Averil MacDonald D.Univ CPhys FInstP FRSA

Awards: IoP International Bragg Medal and Prize 1999; Royal Society Millennium Award; Women of Outstanding Achievement in Science 2007; Plastics Industry Award for Personal Contribution to the Industry 2007; Honorary Doctorate from University of York 2010


Averil Macdonald currently holds the Chair in Science Engagement at the University of Reading and is mother to 2 teenage daughters.

Averil’s career began teaching Physics in secondary schools before taking a career break, studying part time for an MA then a PhD and becoming a part time lecturer in the Physics department at the University of Reading. She has co-authored over 20 school text books, produced a wide range of free teaching resources for schools and is well known for pioneering Science Outreach through a wide range of projects designed to show people the fascination and careers opportunities of Science including the well-known ‘Science with Coffee and Hobnobs’ – a project particularly aimed at communicating science to Mums. She was subsequently invited to write the definitive guide to Science Outreach in universities by the Higher Education Academy.

In 2002/3 Averil toured the UK giving the Institute of Physics Schools and Colleges Lecture and has since given this lecture to over 85,000 people including audiences at the Royal Institution and the Royal Society in London, the Cheltenham Science Festival and the Brighton Science Festival. She has appeared many times on television and radio including Scrapheap Challenge, The Eleven O’clock Show and Vanessa and is the BBC Radio Berkshire Resident Scientist.

Averil  was awarded the international Bragg Medal and Prize by the Institute of Physics, London in 1999 for her distinguished contribution to popularising Physics (the youngest even recipient and one of only 4 women to receive this international medal in its 40 year history) while the Royal Society recognised the importance of her outreach work with a Millennium Award.

In 2007 Averil was awarded the accolade of Woman of Outstanding Achievement in Science in recognition of her work in Science Communication, and the prestigious Plastics Industry Award for Personal Contribution to the Industry for her success in inspiring young people to study science as a result of her lectures and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of York in 2010, in recognition of her contribution to society.

Averil is Chair of the Expert Group for Women in Science reporting to BIS on the success of the Government’s Strategy for Women in Science. She is a Trustee of the National Museum of Science and Industry, the National Media Museum and the National Railway Museum and sits on the Science and Technology Facilities Council Advisory Panel for Science in Society, the Council of the Institute of Physics, is the UK representative on the European Physical Society Forum for Physics in Society and is also a Director of the Cheltenham Festivals..

Averil’s drive is in encouraging girls into science and in advancing women’s careers in science as she believes it is essential that women have the full opportunity to demonstrate their skills in all spheres. She sits on the Equality Challenge Unit’s Athena SWAN Advisory Committee and is leading the pilot project to develop a comparable award scheme to recognised good employment practices in non-STEM disciplines. She looks forward to the time when women are represented in significant numbers are the highest level in all areas of science.

Averil’s scientific research blends science with archaeology and history. She develops analytical techniques for application to archaeological artefacts and historical textiles to determine their composition. This extends archaeological knowledge and informs conservation processes for historical textiles. 

Back to list

Our supporters