Top honours awarded to Imperial academics in Queen’s Birthday Honours list

Two academics in the Department of Chemical Engineering have been awarded OBEs this year in The Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Professor Nilay Shah, Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, and Senior Strategic Fellow Dr Deesha Chadha from the same department are joined by Visiting Professor Charlottte Williams, from the Department of Chemistry, also awarded an OBE.

Professor Nilay Shah OBE

Professor Shah’s OBE is awarded for services to the decarbonisation of the UK economy. His work aims to optimise the way we design and operate processes in industrial and energy systems. Some of his most important work has been in the field of designing and analysing energy production systems – for example in modelling and optimising technologies like carbon capture and storage systems, and in minimising the cost of bio-ethanol production.

Professor Shah was appointed Head of Chemical Engineering in 2016 and he was the Director of Imperial’s Centre for Process Systems Engineering from 2009 to 2016. He has spent his entire career at Imperial, having first joined the College as an undergraduate and obtaining his PhD at the College in 1992, progressing to Professor in 2001.

Profesor Shah is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and over his career he has been a co-author on over 200 papers. He has also been awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Award for his innovative contributions to UK engineering.

Professor Shah said: “I was really delighted and humbled to hear about this honour. I must admit I was very surprised when I first got the message! Of course, it’s the culmination of the work of a lot of people and I’m very lucky to have had so many talented researchers in my research group and collaborator community over the years.”

Dr Deesha Chadha OBE

Dr Deesha Chadha has been awarded an OBE for services to faith communities in her voluntary role as co-chair of the Faiths Forum for London. She was elected co-chair in 2019 and has served as a member of the National Executive Committee of the Hindu Forum of Britain for over 10 years.

Dr Chadha studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Surrey and graduated in 1998. In 2005, she gained a PhD in engineering education. Dr Chadha’s career in higher education spans 20 years and she has held various leadership roles including Programme Director for the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice at King’s College London from 2013 to 2016. Dr Chadha has also been a National Assessor for the Queen’s Awards for Voluntary Service for over two years.

At Imperial, Dr Chadha is involved in the curriculum review process in the Department of Chemical Engineering. She is also an active researcher in this area and teaches some of the technical content of the programme.

Reflecting on her OBE, Dr Chadha said: “I feel very honoured to be awarded an OBE. I was born and brought up in London and how we connect across communities is really important to me – faith is a big driver in that. Now more than ever, faith and community leaders are called upon to support their communities in getting through this crisis.

“It has been great to use my position with the Faiths Forum for London to connect with the Chaplaincy at Imperial. For example, we recently organised student podcasts where students discussed AI and faith. I am hoping we can continue the good work we have started.

“As a woman from an ethnic minority background, I don’t think we are very high on the pecking order and I would love to use this honour as leverage to promote the achievements and work of other ethnic minority women.”

Professor Charlotte Williams OBE

Professor Charlotte Williams, a Visiting Professor in Imperial’s Department of Chemistry, is awarded an OBE for services to Chemistry. Now a Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Oxford, Professor Williams was based at Imperial from 2003–2016.

In 2011, Professor Williams founded Econic, which uses catalysts to allow carbon dioxide to be used as a raw material in polymer production, making the process cheaper and more environmentally sustainable. The technology is compatible with existing manufacturing plant infrastructure and can make use of waste carbon dioxide, reducing the need for raw petrochemicals.

Alumni honours

Also recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours is Imperial alumnus Professor Graham Medley, who receives an OBE for his services to the COVID-19 response. He is Professor of Infectious Disease Modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

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