October 2020

Leeds alumni recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours

A number of Leeds alumni have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Cath Noakes (Mathematical Engineering 1996; PhD Mechanical Engineering 2000), Professor of Environmental Engineering for Buildings at Leeds, has been given an OBE for services to the COVID-19 response.

Olivia Strong (Politics and Sociology 2015) has been awarded an MBE in recognition of her services to fundraising.

Francis Rainsford (Textile Management 1974), British Honorary Consul in Peru, has also been awarded an MBE in recognition of services to British Nationals.

And Dr Linda Pollard (LLD 2013), who was Pro-Chancellor from 2007 for six years, has been made a Dame for her services to healthcare and the community.

Professor Cath Noakes 

Photo credit: Jude Palmer/Royal Academy of Engineering

Professor Noakes is one of a number of people recognised for their work in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a member of SAGE, the Government’s scientific advisory group on emergencies, and convenes its environmental modelling working group.

Professor Noakes said: “I am absolutely delighted to have been given an OBE. Without a doubt, the last few months have been extremely hectic. I am amazed at the amount of knowledge that we have been able to develop about a new pathogen. It demonstrates the power of scientific collaboration – and the role that engineers play in keeping people safe.

“I also want this award to demonstrate to young people – and particularly young women who are under- represented in the profession – that engineering is a deeply rewarding profession.”

Professor Noakes’ research team at Leeds has developed models to simulate the spread of pathogens inside buildings and other enclosed spaces, how surfaces can become contaminated, and the role of ventilation, air-filtration and disinfection systems in reducing those risks.

Olivia Strong 

Photo credit: IVP_Studios

Since starting her Run For Heroes fundraising campaign in March, Olivia Strong has helped to raise over £6.7 million for NHS Charities Together, who aim to support the welfare and the wellbeing of NHS staff as they fight COVID-19. She has been recognised for her services to fundraising.

The simple idea – run 5K, donate £5, and nominate 5 others to do the same – broke Virgin Money Giving records for the total raised on an individual volunteer page.

“I wanted to do more to help, and I had the time to do it,” Olivia said. “I thought, if we're all out using our one form of exercise a day, why don't we do it for the NHS workers?” The initiative grew exponentially, with 1.5 million people being inspired to take part in the challenge.

“It is really special to be given the honour of an MBE,” Olivia adds. “The MBE is not for me – it’s a Run for Heroes MBE.”

Francis Rainsford 


Francis Rainsford has been recognised for services to British Nationals in Peru. Francis has worked as British Honorary Consul in Arequipa for ten years, helping British nationals across a range of issues.

“You never know what is going to arrive at your door from one day to the next,” Francis said. “Stolen passports, hospital visits, prison visits, missing persons and deaths – just to mention a few!

“Receiving the MBE was both an extremely pleasing and humbling moment and I hope that it reflects on the work of our main consular team in Lima overall.

“It's a real privilege to be able to help people in their time of need and particularly during the past seven months of the current COVID-19 pandemic where the main task has been to assist stranded British nationals to repatriate to the UK.”

Dr Linda Pollard

Dr Pollard, honoured for her services to healthcare and the community, is the chair of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and the Leeds Innovation District Partnership. She has been involved in a major overhaul of healthcare in Leeds including the development of two new hospitals to advance the NHS’s research work. She also led the launch of the Leeds Female Leaders Network to nurture female middle managers and executives from healthcare and academia.

She said: “I am absolutely convinced about the benefits that research and innovation will bring to the city and the wider region. That’s why I have tried to play my part in encouraging, supporting and leading collaboration between key institutions in the city, including the NHS, the University of Leeds, and Leeds City Council. We have so much to gain from the cutting edge joint research and innovation programmes we are driving, as well as the backing we attract from commercial investors and research companies.

“I passionately believe that working together in this way will result in great jobs for local people, with the wider economic impact this has, and the reduction of inequalities in Leeds and across West Yorkshire.”