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Image showing Professor Karen Johnson

We’re celebrating the news that Professor Karen Johnson from our Department of Engineering has been awarded the Royal Society’s Rosalind Franklin Award. The award recognises Karen’s achievements in environmental engineering and her commitment to engaging women in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Soil health and climate change

Karen is passionate about soil and her research focuses on developing sustainable soil improvement technologies to help communities rebuild degraded soils.

Soil may not be glamorous, but Karen is committed to helping people understand how healthy soil can help address climate change. Healthy soils hold onto more carbon, which helps fight climate change, and water, which helps prevent floods and droughts.

Soil education

The award includes funding to put towards a relevant project. Karen has teamed up with colleagues across the University and beyond to develop a four-year project to engage ‘Generation Alpha’, those born between 2010’s and 2020’s, in soil health and raise awareness of the role of civil engineering in caring for soil. 

Working with Outdoor Activity and Sustainability Educational Specialists (OASES), and Raby Estates, the team will develop and deliver teaching materials that can bring soil education to life and demonstrate why understanding soil’s role in our ecosystem, and in the fight against climate change, is essential. 

The project will engage with over 400 pupils and over 25 teachers in County Durham and the hope is that ultimately this will encourage more pupils, especially female pupils, to consider a career in Civil Engineering.

Prestigious award

The Rosalind Franklin Award recognises a project to promote women in STEM, by an individual with a high standard in any area of STEM.

It is supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and named in honour of biophysicist Rosalind Franklin whose work was critical to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA.

Find out more:

Engineering at Durham University

Our Department of Engineering offers a wide range of Engineering pathways, is recognised as ones of the leading centres of research in Engineering in the world and is ranked 5th in The Complete University Guide 2023. Students benefit from excellent employment opportunities as well as interdisciplinary research and national and international cooperation.

Feeling inspired? Visit our Engineering webpages to learn more about our postgraduate and undergraduate programmes.

Durham University is a top 100 world university. In the QS World University Rankings 2024, we were ranked 78th globally.