To mark her official birthday, Queen Elizabeth II has given out honours to extraordinary people all over the UK – including the AcademiaNet researcher Professor Polly Arnold. The University of Edinburgh scientist was appointed to the Order of the British Empire, receiving the title of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) last Friday. She was given this award in recognition of her "services to Chemistry and Women in STEM".
A chemist at the University of Edinburgh, Professor Arnold works on creating and studying unusual chemical complexes that incorporate rare elements. These compounds can display unique catalyst features, which may enable otherwise difficult chemical transformations. Potential applications are, among others, the generation of biodegradable plastics. Professor Arnold is also a fierce proponent of women in science: In 2012, she produced 'A Chemical Imbalance' – which she describes as "a film and book that celebrates women in science, and explores the issues that contribute to their continuing under-representation."
Professor Arnold was stunned and humbled to receive the accolade. To AcademiaNet, she said: "I’m extremely flattered and hope it will make me work harder, and make me sound more persuasive. There are so many more things I want to do to help improve diversity in STEM."
The Queen each year rewards achievements in the sciences, the arts as well as charitable contributions to British society and to public service with her Birthday Honours. According to the British government's website, this year's selection is the most diverse ever: efforts were made to include a substantial number of individuals from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background, and 50 percent of the awardees are women. 2017 also marks the centenary of the Order of the British Empire: Its first members were appointed by King George V in 1917.