Dr Heather Williams (43), consultant medical physicist for nuclear medicine at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours list on Wednesday, 30 December 2020 for services to diversity and inclusion in science.
Dr Williams, who is originally from Hull and now lives in Stockport has been in post at The Christie for 3 years, and has long been engaged in encouraging would-be scientists, particularly the drive to improve the representation of women in all scientific fields.
In 2012 Dr Williams established Science Grrl, a grassroots national network to celebrate and support women in science. Today she acts as one of 2 directors of the not-for-profit group, overseeing a range of national activities, co-ordinating the website and organising regular events across the UK.
For her work Dr Williams was made an alumni laureate by the University of Nottingham in 2015, and in 2017 she was awarded the Institute of Physics (IOP) Phillips Award for distinguished service to the IOP through the Women in Physics Group. Dr Williams is also the former secretary and chair of the IOP's Women in Physics group committee.
Dr Williams said: “I’m delighted to have been nominated for this honour and am very pleased that diversity and inclusion in science has been recognised as a worthwhile goal, which has yet to be achieved, and still requires attention and effort. I am not alone in this endeavour and would like to thank all those who are working to ensure science really is for everyone.”
The Chief Executive of The Christie Roger Spencer, said: “This is a thoroughly well-deserved award for a passionate and dedicated medical physicist who has championed a wide range of important causes.
“Heather’s commitment to equality and diversity as well as the next generation of scientists is incredible and she has demonstrated throughout her career what a superb role model, important researcher and a voice for good she is in her chosen field. There is nobody more deserving of this accolade and we’re thrilled she has been recognised for her considerable achievements.”
Dr Williams completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics with Medical Physics at the University of Nottingham, followed by a Master of Science degree in Physics and Computing with Medicine and Biology at The University of Manchester.
During her postgraduate training at The Christie, she completed placements in nuclear medicine, diagnostic radiology, magnetic resonance imaging and radiotherapy. In 2004 she was awarded a PhD from The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) for developing quantitative measures for clinical response assessment using Positron emission tomography (PET).
Dr Williams is also a passionate advocate for science communication to non-expert audiences. She regularly gives public lectures and contributes to panel discussions at schools, universities, conferences and festivals, and has judged a number of high-profile competitions. In 2014 she was recognised by the Science Council as one of the top 100 practising scientists in the UK.
Dr Williams has been a science demonstrator for BBC One’s ‘Bang Goes the Theory,’ delivered workshops for TeenTech, and is a consultant for the Ogden Trust. She also regularly contributes to radio and print media, and has contributed expert testimony to Parliament.
Research has also played a big part in her career, particularly investigating the role of imaging in medicine. Her imaging research spans a wide range of topics, including gamma camera and PET performance assessment, quantifying radiotracer uptake, designing methods for clinical research including brain, vascular, and currently, cancer imaging.
The Christie NHS Foundation Trust was the first specialist trust to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ twice (in 2016 and 2018) by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It referred to The Christie as ‘a leader in cancer care’ and ‘a pioneer in developing innovative solutions to cancer care.’ The CQC praised the Trust’s staff which it said ‘go the extra mile to meet the needs of patients and their families’ and that they were ‘exceptionally kind and caring.’ In 2017, the CQC rated The Christie as the best specialist trust in the country, and one of the top three trusts overall in England.