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Image of Three head and shoulder shots of women - left to right Roberta Gilchrist, Alison Wilding and Belinda Wilkes
Left to right Professor Roberta Gilchrist (photo courtesy University of Reading), Alison Wilding RA (photo courtesy of Karsten Schubert) and Dr Belinda J Wilkes.

Archaeologist, sculptor and astrophysicist elected as Honorary Fellows

Three women distinguished in their fields of archaeology, sculpture and astrophysics – Professor Roberta Gilchrist, Alison Wilding and Dr Belinda J Wilkes – have been elected as Honorary Fellows of Jesus College.

Professor Roberta Gilchrist FBA

An eminent scholar of medieval and gender archaeology, Professor Roberta Gilchrist’s work is influential beyond her discipline, reaching into history, the history of art, and gender studies.

Moving from her native Canada to study archaeology at the University of York, Professor Gilchrist is a Professor of Archaeology and Research Dean for the Arts and Humanities at the University of Reading. She was promoted to professor only six years after receiving her PhD.

Her pioneering research on the archaeology of female monasticism relates directly to Jesus College’s institutional predecessor: in her first book Gender and Material Culture: The Archaeology of Medieval Religious Women (1994), she discusses the plan and surviving building of St Radegund’s nunnery, situating it in the broader architectural, social, and religious context of female monastic life.

Archaeologist to Norwich Cathedral from 1993 to 2005, Professor Gilchrist has also worked closely with Glastonbury Abbey and Museum of London Archaeology as academic advisor on post-excavation projects on several monasteries.

A Fellow of the British Academy since 2008, she was voted Archaeologist of the Year 2016 in the Current Archaeology Awards.

Alison Wilding RA

One of the UK’s leading abstract sculptors and Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy, Alison Wilding was a pioneering figure for women sculptors in the 1980s, in a field that was then almost entirely male.

Born in Lancashire, Wilding graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1973 and came to prominence in the 1980s as one of a group of sculptors including Richard Deacon and Antony Gormley. She is known for the wide range of both materials and processes she employs, as well as her capacity to work at the extremes of scale: from a hand held object to all but monumental sculpture.

Wilding's first major solo exhibition was at the Serpentine Gallery in 1985. Since then Wilding has shown extensively throughout the UK and abroad, and her work has been acquired into major public collections in the UK. 

Nominated for the Turner Prize in both 1988 and 1992, she was Henry Moore Fellow in Sculpture at the British School at Rome in 1998, and was elected to the Royal Academy in 1999. Wilding won the Charles Wollaston award for the most distinguished work in the RA’s summer exhibition in 2009 and was made Eranda Professor of Drawing at the RA Schools in 2018.

Wilding has a long-standing association with Jesus College. Her work has been displayed in our biannual exhibition Sculpture in the Close in 2003 (Melancholia) and 2017 (Tooth and Claw and Aftermath I, II, III, and IV). Melancholia has remained in our Fellow’s garden underneath an oriental plane tree, while Tooth and Claw – now on long-term loan and installed in our Upper Hall - was fashioned from wood salvaged from a branch of that same tree in 2015.

Dr Belinda J Wilkes

One of the College's first cohort of female graduate students, Dr Belinda J Wilkes (1978) is a distinguished and highly cited research scientist.

Originally from Shropshire and schooled in Wolverhampton, Dr Wilkes studied for her BSc in physics and astronomy at the University of St Andrews before gaining her PhD in astronomy at Cambridge in 1982.

Formerly a NATO Fellow at the University of Arizona, she is currently Senior Astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Director of the Chandra X-ray Center. The Center operates NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, one of NASA's Great Observatories, which explores the Universe in X-ray light, observing the hottest and most violent celestial sources.

Dr Wilkes' research relates to multi-wavelength studies of quasars: galaxies containing super-massive black holes at their centres. She has authored or co-authored 162 research papers with more than 11000 citations to date. Dr Wilkes is passionate about STEM outreach and encouraging young people to become scientists.

A Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Cambridge Philosophical Society, Dr Wilkes is also a member of the American Astronomical Society, International Astronomical Union, American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has received several NASA Group Achievement awards, the NASA MSFC Director's Commendation, and many Smithsonian Institution awards including the Exceptional Accomplishment Award.

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