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Women in Science

Alison studied engineering at Oxford University and went on to do a PhD in AI robotics and computer vision. She chose to move from academia to work in industry for five years before returning to Oxford as a lecturer. She moved up the ranks of lecturer to reader to full professor and, in 2011, became a Chair in Biomedical Engineering.

Alison Noble


at the time of the interview - 2017

Alison is the Technikos Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Associate Head of MPLS Division (Industry and Innovation) and a Fellow of St Hilda’s College. Ethnic background: White British.


at the time of the interview -  2017

Alison was always in interested in understanding how the world worked and went to study engineering at Oxford University. She became particularly interested in AI robotics and did a PhD in image interpretation. Alison was keen to build systems that could be used to solve real, rather than artificial, problems and so left academia after her PhD to work at the GE Global Centre. While working at GE, Alison became interested in medical imaging analysis and, after five years, returned to Oxford University in 1995 as a lecturer and to continue working in this field.

Alison was told it is not possible to return to academia once you leave it for industry but she left that window opening by collaborating with academics, publishing and attending conferences across that time. The five years in industry gave her skills in translational research; how you work with others to evaluate what you’ve developed and produce working solutions.

if you want to go beyond just publishing papers, talking about the research and teaching and training people the other dimension is to demonstrate you can have impact on society and that impact on society is something that I’d love to have.


Once back in Oxford Alison moved from being a lecturer, to reader, to professor and, in 2011, she became the Technikos Professor of Biomedical Engineering. During that time, she was the only female academic to have children - two daughters - in her department.

Alison thinks it is important to be fascinated by the subject you study and let that determine your career direction. Supervising and mentoring students is an important part of her role, and she has been a Director of a Centre for Doctoral Training.

She also has a spin out company which straddles academia and industry which is important to her.