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Molly Morag Stevens:oration

Read Dr Paul De Bank's oration on Molly Stevens for the honorary degree of Doctor of Science in July 2019.


Molly Morag Stevens
Molly Morag Stevens

Pro-Chancellor, Molly Stevens began her academic career studying Pharmacy here at the University of Bath, where she was awarded a first class degree in 1995. Rather than joining most of her peers in pursuing a career in pharmacy, Molly joined the Laboratory of Biophysics and Surface Analysis at the University of Nottingham, where she was awarded a PhD in 2000. While at a conference in San Francisco, presenting her PhD research, Molly saw a picture of a boy with liver failure. This image led to a moment of epiphany, and she decided that, as well as pursuing fundamental science, she would use her skills to directly impact the lives of patients. With this goal in mind, she took a postdoctoral position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the world-renowned laboratory of Professor Robert Langer, a pioneer in the fields of drug delivery, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Returning to the UK in 2004, Molly joined Imperial College and there began a meteoric rise, with promotion to her current position of Professor of Biomedical Materials and Regenerative Medicine in 2008.

Molly has established a huge, multi-national research group, currently with upwards of 80 members, and has pioneered advances in the use of biomaterials for improving human health, becoming a world-leading authority in regenerative medicine. Her ground-breaking research includes new methods to engineer or repair tissues such as bone, cartilage and heart muscle, the development of biomaterials to control stem cell function and fate, and the use of nanomaterials for the specific delivery of therapeutic molecules into cells. Another strand of her research has focussed on the development of ultra-sensitive nanomaterial biosensors to detect low levels of disease markers in patient samples. The aim is to develop methods for rapid and cheap detection of infectious diseases, such as HIV, which are endemic in developing countries, using a mobile phone camera. Results are extremely promising and the test is being trialled in the field in South Africa.

Molly has published over 300 scientific papers, many in the world’s most prestigious journals. She has received global recognition for her work, with an extensive list of prizes and awards including being named, in 2010, as one of the world’s top 10 innovators under 40 by The Times, and being the first woman to win the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Science Medal. She was awarded the prestigious Harrison Medal by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in 2017 and, in 2018, won the Institute of Physics Rosalind Franklin Medal and Prize in addition to being appointed as a Trustee of the National Gallery. She has also, amongst others, been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Molly is an excellent role model for young scientists and engineers, and, in particular, is an inspirational figure for women in STEM subjects. She was the youngest ever female professor in the two departments she is affiliated with at Imperial and her early successes were achieved at the same time as having three children. She has been an enthusiastic advocate for science and engineering, appearing regularly on TV, radio and in print, even featuring in an article as one of Vogue’s “Wonder Women” in 2011. To date, Molly’s use of multidisciplinary research to develop novel healthcare technologies has yielded extremely impressive results. This passion for science and engineering continues unabated and I am sure that Molly will be responsible for many therapeutic breakthroughs in the years to come.

Pro-Chancellor, I present to you Professor Molly Stevens who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.


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