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Professor Sir Martin Sweeting

Professor Sir Martin Sweeting has been fascinated by telecommunications since childhood, and a love of science fiction, particularly the writings of Arthur C Clarke, fostered his enthusiasm for technology.

At school his best subjects were English, French and Latin, but in those days it was hard to combine sciences and arts. So he did A’levels in chemistry, maths and his favourite, physics, going on to gain a degree in electronic and electrical engineering at the University of Surrey, and a PhD.

In 1985, Sir Martin set up Surrey Satellite Technology with about £100 and four employees. The company pioneered rapid-response, low-cost and highly capable small satellites, on which much of our modern life depends. In 2008, SST was sold to Airbus Defence & Space for £50m, but Sir Martin is still executive chairman. The company now has 400 professional staff, annual revenues of more than $100m and total export sales in excess of $1bn to 25 countries. Among its many focuses is clearing up the increasing amount of space debris, which represents a significant threat to the next generation of satellites.

Sir Martin was awarded an OBE in 2002 and won the 2008 Arthur C Clarke Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2016, he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and listed by Sunday Times as one of the 500 most influential UK citizens.

Professor Danielle George

As a child, Professor Danielle George always loved asking “why?” and exploring how technology can deliver answers. On her Commodore 64 computer, she says, “I was much more a programmer than a gamer.”

She was also fascinated by space, waking in the small hours to watch lunar eclipses with the telescope her parents gave her aged eight. A maths teacher at her comprehensive school provided further inspiration with his university astrophysics books. Reading them filled her with awe, she recalls.

At university, she shunned the data-driven world of traditional astrophysics, in favour of radio astronomy. “I had always preferred the practical side of maths and physics,” she says, “and I felt I needed to use my hands.” Her work on the unmanned satellite project at Jodrell Bank became her doctorate.

Now Professor of Radio Frequency Engineering and Associate Vice President at the University of Manchester, Professor George’s research is dedicated to solving one the 14 world engineering grand challenges of the 21st century — engineering the tools of scientific discovery.

She loves teaching, which she says always brings “fire in my belly,” although doesn’t have much time for it with her present responsibilities. She is the current president of the Institute of Engineering and Technology — only the second woman to hold the post. An outstanding role model for women in science and technology, she is passionate about raising public awareness of the positive impact of STEM subjects on all aspects of our lives.