We would like to offer our deepest congratulations to Somerville alumnae Professor Julia Yeomans FRS, Professor Ann Prentice, Theresa Wise and Jane Toogood, as well as our Senior Associate, Alexandra Vincent, on their recognition in the New Year Honours 2024.

Professor Julia Yeomans

Professor Yeomans this year receives an OBE for her services to Physics. A theoretical physicist, Professor Yeomans is Director of the Rudolf Peierls Centre at the University of Oxford, as well as an Honorary Fellow of Somerville College. In her research, Professor Yeomans studies a range of problems in soft matter and biological physics. She has recently been awarded a five year ERC Advanced Grant to investigate how the concepts of active matter physics might be applied to biological processes such as morphogenesis, cancer progression and wound healing.

Professor Yeomans has conducted science outreach for younger and more general audiences, including her 2009 lecture at the Royal Society, ‘Nature’s Raincoats: Bio-inspired surface science’. She also delivered the 2023 Dorothy Hodgkin Memorial Lecture, which considered the patterns and formations contained in nature.

Speaking of her honour, Professor Yeomans commented, ‘The award of an OBE is a wonderful surprise. Thank you to my Somerville tutors, Dr Ann Eggington and Professor Dame Carole Jordan, for their example and encouragement.’

Professor Ann Prentice

Professor Prentice (1970, Chemistry) this year became a CBE for services to British and global public health nutrition, having previously received an OBE in 2006 for the same cause. After Oxford, she undertook further studies and research at the Universities of Surrey and Cambridge. Since 1978, her career has been with the Medical Research Council, both in the United Kingdom and The Gambia. From 1998 until its closure in 2018, she was the director of the MRC’s collaborative Centre for Human Nutrition Research (HNR) (latterly called the “Elsie Widdowson Laboratory”). Her research group subsequently moved to the MRC Epidemiology Unit within the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, where she is Honorary Professor of Global Nutrition and Health.

Professor Prentice’s research focuses on life-course nutritional requirements for population health, with an emphasis on calcium and vitamin D, and encompasses the nutritional problems of both affluent and resource-limited societies. She is involved in projects studying pregnant and lactating women, people living with HIV, children, adolescents and older persons in the UK, The Gambia, Uganda, Malawi, Kenya, China, Bangladesh, India and South Africa. She is internationally recognised for her work in nutrition and bone health, and human lactation, and has served on the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) since its inception, including as chair from 2010-2020.

Professor Prentice is the recipient of numerous honours, awards and prizes. She received the British Nutrition Foundation Prize in 2011, the Institut Candia’s Laureate de Le Prix Scientifique in 1998, and the Robert and Edna Langholz Award for International Nutrition in 2004. In 2018 she received the Macy-György Award (International Society of Research into Human Milk and Lactation), and in 2017 she was made honorary Fellow of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences. She was the recipient of the 2020 inaugural Widdowson Award, named in honour of Elsie Widdowson, from the Nutrition Society in recognition of her excellent contribution to the field of public health nutrition.

Theresa Wise

Theresa Wise (1983, Lit Hum) receives an MBE for services to Broadcasting. She is currently Chief Executive of the Royal Television Society, an organisation which she has steered towards becoming a vibrant reflection of the British TV industry since taking the reins in 2013.

Following her degree at Somerville, Theresa launched her career with an MBA from the London Business School followed by strategy and marketing roles for British Aerospace Communications and British Satellite Broadcasting, among others. Theresa subsequently held senior roles at Accenture (Partner in the Media and Entertainment practice) and The Walt Disney Company (Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy, EMEA) before establishing her own business, T Wise Consulting Ltd, which provided strategic advice to media, telecoms and technology clients. In addition to her role at the Royal Television Society, Theresa also serves on the Board of the IBC.

Reflecting on her professional life to date, Theresa commented, ‘My time at Somerville was the absolute bedrock of my subsequent career. I started at Somerville with a reasonable sense of curiosity and left with even more, together with a range of analytical skills that gave me the ability to handle huge amounts of data and formulate a compelling story. The cut, thrust and challenge of the tutorials provided unbeatable training in how to create and hold a line of argument. Above all, I formed the friendships that would emotionally sustain me through career highs and lows – and many other life events. I look back on my time at Somerville with great affection and pride.’

Jane Toogood 

Jane Toogood (1983, Chemistry) was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours for services to the low Carbon Hydrogen Sector. She is the Government’s first Hydrogen Champion, a role to which she was appointed in 2022. Jane has long experience as a business leader in catalyst technologies, precious metals and sustainable energy, including decarbonisation strategies. As the Government’s new Hydrogen Champion, Jane will help drive industry investment and deployment at this critical stage in the early development of the UK hydrogen economy. She will identify current barriers to building a strong UK hydrogen economy and develop creative solutions for how these can be addressed to accelerate the project pipeline and deliver on the UK government commitments.

Alexandra Vincent

Our Senior Associate Alexandra Vincent, Chief Operating Officer and Divisional Registrar of Oxford University’s Humanities Division, has been appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her services to research funding, in recognition of her achievements in her previous role of Chief Operating Officer for the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Alexandra said: “To have received this honour is such a wonderful recognition and I admit to being a little overwhelmed! Across my career I have had the joy of working with some amazing people and this recognition is really a tribute to those fantastic teams and individuals. Having worked in many different aspects of research funding and policy, I am particularly pleased that this highlights the importance of research funding in the arts and humanities and the contribution they make to all of our lives.

“With my new team, at the University of Oxford, as we look forward to the opening of the new Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities, I am looking forward to continuing to demonstrate how important the arts and humanities are in navigating our way through the big challenges like AI, climate change, as well as social justice and human rights, that make this increasingly complex world.”

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