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Alumna of the Year

The voting for Alumna of the Year award has now closed!

See our finalists below. The winner will be announced at the GDST Annual Reception on September 19th.

Polly Arnold OBE (Notting Hill & Ealing High School)

Pushing frontiers in science

Polly Arnold is Professor of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, with an astonishing track record in her career in science. In 2018 alone, she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, FRS, and was awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson award – the only woman to have been given this prestigious award since its inception in 1999 and the fifth youngest woman ever to be elected to the Royal Society in its 350-year history.

In 2017, she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her outstanding contribution to science, and for promoting women in STEM. With women, even today, only comprising some 10% of senior scientists in UK universities, government laboratories and business, Polly has made it a mission to support women in STEM, founding Sci-Sisters, a network for women in leadership positions in Scottish STEM industries, government and academia. In her continuing work to promote women in STEM, she also produced a film, A Chemical Imbalance, in 2012. She made it using the prize money from her award of the Royal Society’s Rosalind Franklin Prize.

A pioneer in transuranic organometallic chemistry, Polly holds the Crum Brown Chair of Chemistry, and is the recipient of one of the European Research Council’s Advanced Research grants (ERC). She also regularly speaks out about diversity issues to the media, including BBC TV and Radio 4 (Today Programme and Women’s Hour), The Times and The i, and is a regular advisor to the Scottish government on nuclear waste policy (as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Scotland, FRSE) and their STEM education strategies.

Tweeting as @ProfArno, she has 2800 twitter followers that include political party leaders, pressure groups, charities and policy-makers from all over the world.

Emily Brooke MBE (Royal High School Bath)

Developing life-saving technology

Emily is an award-winning business woman, British inventor, industrial designer and entrepreneur. She is the Founder and Chairwoman of Beryl (formerly Blaze), a London based technology company with the sole mission to, ‘Build a better world by getting more people in cities on bikes’.  Their first product, the ‘Laserlight’, was Emily’s own creation and university project, a lifesaving innovation to tackle the biggest barrier to cycling in cities, which is personal safety.

The Laserlight is a front facing bike light that gives the rider a bigger footprint on the road and allows a cyclist to be seen by drivers before they would otherwise. Starting as a consumer product, the Laserlight is now one in a range of innovative safety lights for cyclists that Beryl produces.

Beryl's technology has also been adopted by the bike share schemes of London, New York, Glasgow and Montreal. TfL equipped their entire 13,000 bike fleet with the Laserlight, after independent research showed that a Laserlight increases the visibility of a cyclist by up to 32% and decreases the blindspot of a bus by over 25%.  More recently Beryl co-designed the new Santander Cycle in London, for which they provided lights, lasers, GPS, sensors, connectivity and all technology on board the bike.

Most excitingly however, Beryl are about to launch their very own bike share schemes. They have now developed their own bike (20% lighter than a Santander Cycle, high quality and more ‘female friendly’), mobile app, on street operations and partnerships with cities.  Instead of docks, their solution operates with parking bikes in ‘Beryl Bays’, shown to users within the app and marked out on street with paint.

Beryl will be launching their bikes in June this year across 3 locations, having won competitive tenders in Bournemouth, Hereford, as well as multiple London boroughs, including the City of London.

Emily won the New Generation prize at the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Awards in 2015 and in 2017 she was awarded an MBE for her services to transport and the economy.

Margaret Casely-Hayford CBE (Streatham & Clapham High School)

Businesswoman extraordinaire and charity champion

Margaret Casely-Hayford, CBE is a lawyer, businesswoman and public figure whose work in the voluntary sector led, last year, to her being awarded a CBE for her services to charity in the UK and abroad, and her work to create diversity on boards.

She is currently chair of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, with her illustrious career including: chair of ActionAid UK, board director of the Co-Op, Chancellor of Coventry University, trustee of both Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital Charity and the Radcliffe Trust, a 30—year old organisation that funds arts and music projects. She has also advised NHS England and the British Retail Consortium, and served on the development board of the Young Vic theatre.

Prior to these board positions, she was director of legal services at the John Lewis Partnership, and was previously a partner with City law firm, Dentons – the first black woman in the UK ever to be made a partner at a City law firm. With her many achievements Margaret was named by the Black British Business awards as Business Person of Year (2014), and one of the most influential black people in Britain by the 2018 Power List.

Olivia Colman CBE (Norwich High School for Girls)

Oscar-winning actor

Olivia Colman is a truly versatile TV, film and theatre actor, with a career spanning 20 years, roles across crime, comedy, period drama, children’s TV and more, and credits which include Carol Thatcher in The Iron Lady, to Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s The Crown. 

She has won over 50 prestigious awards, starting in 2011 with a BIFA Best Actress Award (which she has won three times) for Tyrannosaur, and leading up to this year’s multiple victories for her outstanding performance as Queen Anne in The Favourite, including an Academy (Oscar) Award (Best Actress), BAFTA (Best Actress in a Leading Role) and a Golden Globe (Best Actress).

She also supports numerous charities including UNICEF, is an Ambassador for Amnesty International, and Patron of Tender, the UK charity which works to prevent violence and sexual abuse through the use of theatre and the arts, and the Anthony Nolan Trust.

Emma Jones MBE (Shrewsbury High School)

Entrepreneur and start-up expert

Emma Jones, MBE, is a business expert and best-selling author, and one of the best-known women in enterprise in the UK. She has supported the small and micro-business community since 2005, when she sold her first company and started Enterprise Nation from her home in Shrewsbury. Enterprise Nation is on a mission to create a more entrepreneurial society in the UK, helping small businesses get started and grow – with around 60% of its users being women.

In 2011, she was asked by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to co-found StartUp Britain, the national enterprise campaign which saw new business start-up rates double in the UK. A year later she was awarded an MBE for services to enterprise, later becoming the Government’s Trade Ambassador, and then SME Crown Representative attached to the Cabinet Office working to increase goods and services bought in by the Government from small businesses. Last year, she was named as the co-chair of one of Theresa May’s five business councils.

Over the years, Emma has helped thousands of small firms to get started in the UK, and remains one of the most high profile and highly active champions for women in the start-up work space.

Rosie Thomas (Putney High School)

Bringing the natural world to our screens

Rosie Thomas is a Wildlife Filmmaker and Producer/Director of the BBC ‘Dynasties Chimpanzee’ episode. Rosie’s innovative and ground breaking work has not only captured outstanding footage for the public to enjoy, but has helped raise the profile of the fragility of our living world. Rosie has travelled all over the world for her work and has just returned from a two year long filming expedition where she shadowed a single group of chimpanzees, in a remote part of Senegal, for the highly acclaimed 'Dynasties' series with David Attenborough.

The ‘Dynasties Chimpanzee’ film aired on BBC1 in November 2018 and since then it has been broadcasted all around the globe. To date, the episode has been viewed by over 300 million people and it has already received a number of awards and award nominations.

Rosie has travelled all over the world for her work, filming a wide range of different animals, from elephants in Central Africa to lizards in Tasmania, filming from boats, helicopters, in the thickest of forests, up mountains and even in remote deserts; often managing to capture never before seen behaviours while working alongside some of the world’s leading experts in their fields. A large part of her career has been spent filming primates, all across the globe.

After leaving Putney High School Rosie studied at Leeds and the Natural History Museum in London. In 2006 Rosie began working for the BBC and is currently a Natural History Producer/Director in the BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit.

Rosie has worked on the multi-award winning series 'Life' and the award winning productions 'Africa' and 'Monkey Planet'.

Liberty Venn (Brighton Girls)

Getting books to disadvantaged children

Liberty Venn set up the London Children’s Book Project, an organisation which distributes ‘gently’ used books to children across the capital, in 2017.  Just two years later, this unique project has already collected and redistributed 75,000 books, with over 150 organisations, including prisons, hospitals, food banks, women’s shelters and schools, having gifted the books to children with few of their own.

It was through her work as a researcher with literacy-oriented charities and with children’s publishers, that Liberty became aware of the crucial role that early access to books plays in children’s emotional development and in their outcomes. She was also alerted to the massive book gap in the capital, with one in four disadvantaged children in London owning fewer than 8 books, and one in eight having none at all - and she knew she had to do something to help.  Her book gifting events are creative, immersive and designed to lift books from their second hand status.

Five London GDST schools are already amongst those that have supported the project with donations of books: Bromley High School, Kensington Prep, Notting Hill & Ealing High School, Streatham & Clapham High School and Wimbledon High School.  Liberty has also been awarded a Point of Light award by the Prime Ministers’ office in recognition of the “difference [she is] making to children’s lives”.

Emma Vetriano (Croydon High School)

Levelling the playing field in sport

Emma Vetriano is fast making a name for herself in the sports industry, as a Global Partnerships Manager at Electronic Arts (the digital entertainment business, and creator of the EA SPORTS FIFA football video game), and has been awarded the accolade of  Sports Industry NextGen Leader 2019 – a highly prestigious award for any young professional in the sports business.

She started her career in the sports industry as a rugby player, referee, coach and analyst, before becoming the first female member of a Match Officials team at a European Rugby Champions Cup Final in 2015, and then moving into the football world. As EA SPORTS Global Partnerships’ Manager, she works with the Premier League, the EFL, Chelsea FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City player Kevin De Bruyne and Manager Pep Guardiola.

More than this, though, she is passionate about equality in sports, and campaigns tirelessly – from tackling homophobia in football to encouraging more women to become competitive FIFA players. She is co-founder of Women in Sports Business, a member of Women in Football and a former 30% Club mentee, which stands for gender balance in all industries.  


The GDST Alumna of the Year Awards

The GDST Alumna of the Year Award was launched in 2011 to help recognise the many varied achievements of our alumnae. Alumnae and students vote for a winner from a shortlist of nominees. The winner is interviewed for our alumnae magazine, GDST Girl for Life, and is awarded £500 as a donation to a charity of her choice.

The award recognises achievements in these areas:

  • Championing a charitable cause
  • Achieving outstanding academic or professional success
  • Driving environmental or social change
  • Being a pioneer or achieving success in a challenging field
  • Being an inspiration to women or young people

Dr Nirupa Murugaesu, 2018 winner

Dr Nirupa Murugaesu is an alumna of Notting Hill & Ealing High School. She was recognised for her clinical leadership and oversight of the Cancer Programme for The 100,000 Genomes Project.

Clinical Lead for Molecular Oncology at Genomics England, Nirupa provides clinical leadership and oversight of the Cancer Programme for The 100,000 Genomes Project, the groundbreaking genome sequencing project - set up to harness the power of genomics in the treatment of rare diseases and cancers.

The project involves sequencing the DNA codes of cancer patients, in order to be able to provide better, earlier diagnoses and personal care for sufferers. 

Cressida Dick, 2017 winner

Cressida Dick CBE is the GDST Alumna of the Year 2017. An alumna of Oxford High School, she was was honoured for her outstanding contribution to policing.

Read more.

Jenny Beavan, 2016 winner

The winner of the 2016 Alumna of the Year Award was Putney High School alumna, Oscar-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan.

Read more.

Alison Maguire, 2015 winner

Alison Maguire, Head of Research at The Lily Foundation and alumna of Croydon High School, was our 2015 winner.

Terms & Conditions

Read the full T&Cs for the Alumna of the Year Award.

  • The nominated alumna must be over the age of 18
  • The Award is only open to living alumnae
  • The nominator must have the consent of the alumna being nominated
  • The nominee must agree that if they are successful in being shortlisted they consent to publicity relating to the award
  • The nominee must have attended a current GDST school – a list of current GDST schools can be found here