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Hallam’s woman of steel recognised for trailblazing career

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Hallam’s woman of steel recognised for trailblazing career

Wednesday 23 June 2021

Sara Hornby is an inspiration for ambitious women in engineering everywhere, and the Hallam alumna’s incredible career in the steel industry was recently recognised with two prestigious awards by the Association for Iron & Steel Technology (AIST).

Established in 1954, the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME) Benjamin F. Fairless Award recognises distinguished achievement in iron and steel production and ferrous metallurgy.

The prize was awarded to Sara in 2020 for her outstanding contribution to the international steel industry – across everything from plant engineering, research and development, and technical sales, to education and her strong advocacy of technical societies, particularly the Iron & Steel Society (ISS) and AIST.

Sara also received the John Bell Award in 2020, becoming the second Hallam graduate in a row to receive this award, after the 2019 version went to alumnus Stewart Robinson.

Established in 2011, the John Bell Award is presented to an individual who has made a major and significant contribution to the innovation, improvement, and education of the engineering design and metallurgical process of electric arc furnace technology. It also recognises knowledge exchange and the forming of professional relationships in the steelmaking community.

On receiving the awards, Sara said:

“A lot of the previous winners of these awards were my mentors, so receiving them really is an honour and one of the highlights of my career.

“My industry love story started as a challenge, after being told by a career counsellor that metallurgy was out of reach for a woman – I’m so glad that he and others along the way were wrong.

“The mentoring, friendship and support I’ve received from many others over the years has helped fuel my desire to work in the industry, starting with Vic Gibson and Brian Murphy at Hallam University.

“The challenges of this wonderful industry have been many, but so have the rewards, culminating in 2020 (despite Covid), with not only these two awards but election to the prestigious Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) in the UK (FIMMM).”

Throughout her fantastic career, Sara has made a habit of proving that nothing is out of reach, and these awards are just her latest accolades after years of making a difference in the steel industry.

Her success in the industry all started at Hallam, where she graduated with a BSc Hons in Metallurgy (1969-1973) and a PhD in Industrial Metallurgy (1975-78).

Sara on a site visit during her first year at university.

And she has been working in metallurgy ever since (as well as some time in industry between her undergraduate and PhD studies). After finishing her PhD, she worked at the old British Steel Corporation in Rotherham, starting as a Management Trainee.

From here, Sara moved to Montreal to work with Air Liquide, a company she stayed at for 17 years in Canada and the US, before taking on a range of high-level roles in the steel industry.

She is now Principal and Owner of Global Strategic Solutions – an expert consultancy to the metals and related industries – and maintains a high industry profile by participating in committees, lecturing, presenting papers and chairing sessions at international technical conferences.

So far, Sara has published over 120 publications and courses, and has five patents, with one patent pending, and has worked as a legal expert, consulting for three major international lawsuits.

Sara has well and truly blazed a trail for all women in engineering. She is part of the Women in Steel Group at AIST, actively working to increase the number of women in the industry, and she was also the first woman on the Board of Directors of the ISS and the Investment Casting Institute (ICI).

On top of this, she has even found the time to train to be a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt!

Sara’s advice for young female engineers looking to excel is to find the right person in the industry for support.

She says: “Find a mentor in the industry who can help guide you, support you and listen to you when you have challenges. Choose a mentor that suits your personality, and if it can be a female mentor, even better.”

Sara will be returning to Sheffield in September 2021 to present two papers at the 12th European Electric Steelmaking Conference, which is being held in our very own Steel City.

Speaking about Sara’s success, Sheffield Hallam’s Interim Head of Department for Engineering and Mathematics, Dr Hongwei Zhang said: “I am delighted to learn that Sara has received these prestigious accolades for her brilliant achievements during a remarkable career.

“Her story is truly inspirational, especially to young female engineers, and makes us here in engineering and maths at Sheffield Hallam very proud to have an alumna of her calibre.”

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