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Sue Ion
technology director

Dr Sue Ion is British Nuclear Fuels' (BNFL) most senior woman. She controls an annual research and development (R&D) budget of about £80 million (two-thirds of the company's annual spend on R&D) and a staff of 950 located at three sites. This industry underpins many of the things we take for granted in everyday life.

Even as a schoolgirl Sue Ion could see the importance of nuclear power. 'I got a prize at O-level and chose a book on nuclear power. I've always seen it as a high-tech, forward-looking industry that benefits mankind.' She decided to take a degree in materials science because it combined both physics and chemistry, subjects she had enjoyed at school. Her doctoral thesis concerning fuel rods for Magnox nuclear reactors was awarded the prize for best thesis in the faculty, and was a calling-card for BNFL. She started working there in 1979.

The R&D programme she manages underpins all aspects of BNFL's business. The wide remit of her new role was initially a challenge as her previous experience was in the area of fuel manufacturing. The foundation of excellence in science and technology which she believes the company is built on requires a continual flow of first-rate scientists and engineers. Graduates must be shown that the industry can offer challenging and worthwhile careers. And women technologists are playing an increasing role reflecting the greater numbers now seen in mainstream engineering compared with twenty years ago.

Sue is a member of the Women's Engineering Society. She has spoken on many occasions about the need to encourage girls to consider careers in science and engineering, and she gave a Daphne Jackson Memorial Lecture on this very subject. Sue is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

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Working for British Nuclear Fuels, Dr Sue Ion controls one of the country's largest research an development budgets. She is a member of the Women's Engineering Society and speaks frequently to young women on the advantages of a career in science and engineering.

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