Penny Rathbone CEng FIMMM (profile)

23 Jun 2015

Penny became a Fellow of IOM3 in 2014. She is a member of the Women’s Engineering Society and Women in Nuclear.

Penny graduated from the University of Liverpool with BEng in Materials Science and joined National Westminster Bank on the fast-track management scheme. After a year of this, she left to carry out a PhD back at the University of Liverpool in Auxetic Materials (materials with a negative Poisson’s ratio). Penny was offered a bursary to work for Unilever in 1994 but decided to take a job at the Company Research Laboratory (CRL) of British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) at Springfields site, Preston.

She worked in the advanced materials group looking at ‘blue sky’ research, managing PhD and other projects. She also took on the day-to-day running of the microscopy lab including an AFM, SIMS, environmental SEM and the polymer projects being run from the CRL. She completed a one-year secondment to the finance department as part of Project Columbus, which was to re-engineer the financial system and culminated in SAP being implemented. SAP is an enterprise software system used for managing finances, resources and stock. After five years at Springfields, she went on a further secondment to Sellafield site in Cumbria for three months in 2000, to help with commissioning and maintenance shutdown activities. She’s had numerous roles since then, including microscopy, condition assessment and inspection of site wide systems, general materials support, alpha containment materials specialist and programme management for facilities rationalisation, moving active laboratories between buildings.

Currently, Penny is the Head of the Centre of Expertise (CoE) for Polymeric Materials for Sellafield Sites and providing support to other nuclear sites (NDA sites and Defence Nuclear sites) through collaboration and supporting Tier 1 contractors. The CoE is an informal network of internal and external subject matter experts in the area of polymers.

Her duties include being the central point of contact and providing guidance on materials selection, material analysis, failure analysis, peer review, innovation, research and development, standards and assurance and decommissioning activities. Penny is responsible for making sure there’s an ongoing strategy for provision of polymeric capability in the company (development of staff, recruitment of staff).

In addition to all this, Penny is involved in STEM activities with schools in the local area to encourage science as a career and she lectures a module on the Nuclear Materials and Engineering degree course at the University of Cumbria.

Her current projects include leading the CoE, supporting continuing operations, asset management and decommissioning, including developing a polymeric repair toolkit for site use on pipes, ducts, bunds and concrete repairs.

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Further information

IOM3 membership grades

Update 22 January 2016: See a profile of Penny in the Guardian's "Women in Leadership" series