Top honour for engineering’s ‘best of the best’

An academic who has led research into the way the virus is responsible for COVID-19 spread in buildings and enclosed spaces has been honoured by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Cath Noakes, Professor of Environmental Engineering for Buildings at Leeds and a member of the Government’s scientific advisory group SAGE, has been elected a Fellow of the Academy. 

The award is given to outstanding engineers for their remarkable achievements in business or academia. 

Professor Noakes, from the School of Civil Engineering, said: “I am honoured to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.  

“At school, I decided I wanted to be an engineer and to show that the profession can make a real difference and play a pivotal role in improving the world. The pandemic has presented society with enormous challenges. But science and engineering are enabling us to get back to as near as normal a life as possible. 

“I also want this award to send a message to young women interested in engineering: it is a great, exciting and worthwhile career.”

I also want this award to send a message to young women interested in engineering: it is a great, exciting and worthwhile career.

Professor Cath Noakes, School of Civil Engineering

Professor Noakes became a member of SAGE at the start of the pandemic in the UK, in spring 2020. As an engineer, she brought a different insight to the way the virus may spread inside buildings, particularly hospitals, where the virus could be in the air. Her work has focused on the use of ventilation and air purification technologies to reduce the spread of the virus. 

A mechanical engineer by training, Professor Noakes received her first degree and PhD from the University of Leeds. She is an expert in fluid dynamics.

Professor Nick Plant, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at the University, said: “It is fantastic news that Cath is being honoured by the Royal Academy of Engineering.  

“Her research embodies the philosophy at the heart of the University, to make the world a better place, and her work with SAGE shows engineering and science at its very best, working in the public interest. She is a great role model for students and staff alike. ”

Most diverse group ever

The Royal Academy of Engineering has today announced 60 Fellows, four International Fellows and five Honorary Fellows.  

They have all been elected under the Fellowship Fit for the Future initiative, to see more Fellows from under-represented groups, including women, disabled and LGBTQ+ engineers, those from minority ethnic backgrounds, non-traditional education pathways and emerging industries, and those who have achieved excellence at an earlier career stage than normal. 

Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “Our Fellows represent the best of the best in the engineering world, and we welcome these 69 excellent and talented professionals to our community of businesspeople, entrepreneurs, innovators and academics.  

“This year’s new Fellows are the most diverse group elected in the history of our institution. 

“The engineering profession has long suffered from a diversity shortfall and the Academy is committed to changing that, including by ensuring that our own Fellowship community is as inclusive as it can be.”

Further information

Find out more about Professor Cath Noakes, and Water, Public Health and Environmental Engineering research at the University of Leeds.