Dr Alison Hoyle: A journey into science and water

Dr Alison Hoyle is Director of Risk and Compliance at Southern Water. A scientist by background, with a PhD in Microbiology from the University of Kent. She is a non-executive Director of UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) and President of the Institute of Water, South East.

I always preferred science and maths at school and microbiology intrigued me, in just how much of our health, our lives and the environment were affected by microbes and our response to them.

First steps into the water industry

I chose the water industry quite early - as an ideal place for my career – somewhere that combined my scientific strengths with a real social purpose as an essential service. During the university holidays my first water industry job was working in a lab analysing the samples taken in bathing waters each summer to test for harmful bacteria. Following graduation I did a PhD and researched into using bacteria to digest harmful chemicals and also how they can be used to create useful by-products and medicines.

My early roles in the water industry were in public health protection and environmental scientific advice - advising on major construction schemes and investment programmes on how to meet the scientific standards required by law. This was later followed by many years of strategic planning and developing strategies to meet future environmental and water quality standards and regulations.

Along the way, I have needed to overcome a few stereotypes – not everyone has wanted to follow the advice of a woman scientist – but staying objective and true to myself helped see me through.

The next generation 

I am in a position now where it is very much about leading the next generation of scientists and STEM colleagues – encouraging greater inclusivity for these critical and sometimes scarce skills to meet our future challenges.

A love for science into the future 

The things I first loved about science are still there and every changing - with the global pandemic and climate change, it is clear that these global challenges will only be met by applying all scientific and engineering disciplines and the best efforts across education, policy, health services and all industries.

I am still proud after all these years of all that we do as a water industry to apply these skills for our customers, communities and the environment.

Dr Alison Hoyle

Director of Risk and Compliance at Southern Water