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.

This year's winner will be announced at the Caroline Haslett Lecture and Awards Ceremony taking place on 10 December.  Register here.

Nominations are made by Professional Engineering Institutions.   Professional Engineering Institutions may nominate one newly chartered engineer per year, many have internal review processes to decide who to nominate.  Please contact your PEI if you would like to be considered for the award.  Nomination forms have been sent direct to the PEIs. If you have not received one or have any questions about the award or the nomination process, please contact Cath Heslop at  

The 2019 Karen Burt Award Winner was Mandy Lester, Senior Process Engineer at Atkins Global, nominated by the Institution of Chemical Engineers 

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Sally Sudworth, Chair of the Judges for the Karen Burt Award 2019 said,

“The judges were impressed with Mandy’s commitment to engineering, addressing sustainability in the key area of water supply and the valuable support and mentoring in the development of others.”

Mandy Lester’s response to winning the award was:

“I am beyond thrilled to receive the Karen Burt award, which is an unexpected but deeply gratifying endorsement, having transitioned into engineering with a scientific degree. I’m proud to be part of a profession that has the power to effect real, positive solutions to the dual challenges of climate change and growing populations.

Engineers aren’t born, they’re made – in my case with the support of the IChemE along with the many individuals who’ve inspired me to pursue this hugely enriching career and achieve the gold standard of competence; Chartered Chemical Engineer status.

We need engineers, and those engineers to be from diverse walks of life, now more than ever so I look forward to working more with IChemE and WES to encourage more women to choose a career in engineering.”

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 recognises 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. 

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.