The Karen Burt Memorial Award

Each year WES asks Professional Engineering Institutions to nominate their best newly chartered female engineer, from which a winner of the Karen Burt Memorial Award is chosen. This most prestigious annual WES award was set up to encourage more women to aim for and celebrate the achievement of Chartered Engineer status.

Nominations are made by Professional Engineering Institutions.   Please contact your PEI if you would like to be considered for the award.  PEIs may only make one nomination each year.

Nominations are closed and due to open again in early 2020.

2018 Award winner Dr Susan Deeny, Senior Fire Engineer at Ove Arup & Partners and nominated by the Institution of Fire Engineers.

Statement from Sally Sudworth, Chair of the Judges, Karen Burt Award 2018

Image removed.“Dr Susan Deeny is a chartered engineer with the Institution of Fire Engineers and in 2011 was awarded a doctorate in structural fire engineering from the University of Edinburgh. Her contribution to science and engineering in this specialist field is significant. In 2016 Susan was awarded the Margaret Law Award for her creative approach to fire safety design and for her outstanding individual research. She is recognised in her field as an expert witness and has most recently had a supporting role in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. Her commitment to coaching and training is impressive having produced training material, given lectures, supervised and coached PhD students and has also managed school work placements. The judges were particularly impressed with Susan’s role in optimising the design of the iconic Macallan Distillery.”

Dr Susan Deeny’s reaction to winning the Karen Burt Award was “I am truly delighted to receive the Karen Burt Memorial Award from the Women’s Engineering Society. Engineering has been such a challenging and rewarding career for me.

As a fire safety engineer, my work has helped to shape the built environment in all parts of our lives – our homes, schools, hospitals, places of work and infrastructure. I was drawn into engineering by the buzz of seeing my work shape the world around me.  I believe our built environment would be better for all of us if the people engineering it are representative of our society. So I’m pleased to represent the Women’s Engineering Society which inspires and supports women in all stages of their career.

I am also particularly pleased to represent the Institution of Fire Engineers. Fire safety engineers play a key role in addressing the risk to life and property from fire. Fire safety engineering is a young discipline, so engineering Chartership is vitally important to the progression and development of our industry.”

Previous Winners of the Award

What is the award and who is eligible?

Launched on 3 November 1998 by WES, the Karen Burt Memorial Award is made annually to a newly Chartered woman in the following disciplines – engineering, applied science, IT.

The award recognizes the candidate's excellence and potential in the practice of engineering and highlights the importance of Chartered status, as well as offering recognition to contributions made by the candidate to the promotion of the engineering profession.

Who are the judges?

WES would like to thank the judges of the Karen Burt Award:
Sally Sudworth (Chair)
Alison Hodge
Swee Keow Goo
Fiona Scott
Jo Strange
Sarah Spurgeon

How are nominations made?

Each participating accrediting engineering Institution nominates one candidate annually, following the normal institutional review process, with final selection by a WES panel on the basis of further information provided by the candidate. This latter stage focuses particularly on the candidate's contribution to the promotion of the engineering profession. The collaboration strengthens links between WES and the engineering Institutions and helps raise the profile of women engineers and encourage them to attain Chartered status. Applications are now closed.

Further information on the Karen Burt Memorial Award

Individuals wishing to obtain further information about the award and the nomination procedure should in the first instance contact their own accrediting professional Institution. Institution managers who need further information should contact Cath Heslop at the WES office at

Who was Karen Burt?

As an active member and Council office holder in The Women's Engineering Society, Dr Karen Burt was a Image removed.tireless campaigner for the recruitment and retention of women in science and engineering. From her own experience and her extensive research she was regarded as an expert in the management of career breaks and women 'returners' to engineering.

Karen graduated from Newnham College, Cambridge and obtained a PhD from Reading University in electron microscopy. She joined British Aerospace Systems at Stevenage as project engineer for scientific satellites and progressed to Senior Systems Engineer before developing an interest in management in the Total Quality Environment, and subsequently becoming Business Acquisition Manager.

Leaving BAe, she set up her own consultancy and was instrumental in establishing the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation Systems within University College, London. She had just accepted a position on the staff of UCL when her career was abruptly ended by a devastating stroke.

Karen is remembered as a gifted communicator and her fight to recover speech and mobility following her stroke was an inspiration to all who knew her.