A SCIENTIST at Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) in Porton Down has been named “woman of the year” at the defence awards.

Phillippa Spencer, who has worked at Dstl for 17 years, collected awards for Woman of the Year and for Outstanding Contribution to defence at the Women in Defence awards.

She was cited for her work applying mathematical and statistical thinking across a number of areas such as cyber, artificial intelligence, data fusion, chemistry and biology.

Her analysis was used among healthcare workers in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak and she was a key expert in bringing the F-35 fighter into service.

More recently, Phillippa was involved in the clean-up of Salisbury following the Novichok incident, where she applied statistical modelling to determine whether locations or vehicles were safe to use.

On receiving her award Phillippa said: “This was a huge shock to me and a tremendous honour. I want to thank all the people who have supported me throughout the years, especially the F-35 team. Becoming Woman of the Year is a humbling, yet exciting experience.

“I am lucky enough to have had a diverse and extremely fun career and I hope that I have many years to come. I would ask all of my colleagues to nominate more women next year as I know there are many others like me who have made significant contribution to defence.”

This year, she was awarded a patent for her method of interrogating mixtures of nuclear acids by short tandem repeat analysis. This complements her existing patents at Dstl including for the pre-symptomatic diagnosis of sepsis.

Dstl chief executive Gary Aitkenhead said: “I am so proud that Phillippa has won Woman of the Year. Her contribution to defence is exceptional and is worth honouring. She has been involved with some of the key aspects of defence during her 17 years at Dstl and her work has really made a difference in keeping the public safe and saving the lives people across the world.

“I want to see more women like Phillippa leading the way to inspire other women and to show them that careers in Science and Technology are worth considering. This is a fantastic event and well done to Phillippa.”

The award ceremony was held at Guildhall in London on November 19. There were more than 470 nominations received, with seven staff from Dstl in the final shortlisting.