Jennifer Aitken, 1973–2023

Article by Adrian La Porta

JENNIFER AITKEN, dedicated chemical engineer, pharmaceutical expert, process safety advocate, mentor, volunteer, and friend to many in the profession, has died unexpectedly aged 50 after contracting Covid-19.

Jennifer, daughter of mathematicians Linda and Bill, grew up in Edinburgh, attending St Margaret’s School before studying chemical engineering at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. With many friends from both cities, she was proud of her time at both and a proud Scot. She embarked on her career in design and commissioning at John Brown in Portsmouth, excelling as she moved through Fluor and PM Group before joining BPE, a chemical engineering consultancy in Winchester, UK, now part of OLG group.  

Equally at home in the field, commissioning, or in the design office, Jennifer was widely respected for her knowledge and skill, particularly in pharmaceutical engineering. Her intelligence and commitment shone through, manifesting as both innovation in solving problems and as being someone that everyone around her could rely on. She was ready to speak out for the right course of action, especially where process safety was concerned, and later in her career, she became a trusted safety practitioner. She travelled widely, from Norwegian fish oil plants to Italian pharmaceutical plants and was a keen linguist and student of cultures.  

She was a considerate mentor to many young engineers and a calm, conscientious and diligent member of the project teams she worked with.

Jennifer was an avid sportswoman, frequenting both the Royal Commonwealth Pool and the dry ski slope in Edinburgh when not mastering the city’s many golf courses. She went on to captain Wickham Park Golf Club in Hampshire and spent most Sundays on the course. A connoisseur, she applied her characteristic insight and vigour to her selection of pubs and ales, a pursuit that led her to meeting Mike, her partner, in The Bat & Ball in Farnham and the blossoming relationship that followed. More unusually, she had a second professional interest as an accountant, studying for qualifications at night school and preparing accounts at the weekend for friends and family.

She was compassionate in both professional and private life. She was a considerate mentor to many young engineers and a calm, conscientious and diligent member of the project teams she worked with, inspiring many to push themselves in their professional development, and pick themselves up when things didn’t go to plan. She bought many different people together, from all walks of life, under the guise of having fun and living life to the full.

She will, perhaps, be remembered most for her sharp wit, with which she celebrated successes and eased adversity for all those privileged to know her.   

She is survived by her partner and father.

Article by Adrian La Porta

Adrian La Porta CEng MIChemE is technical director at Bryden Wood and former chair of IChemE’s Pharma Special Interest Group

Recent Editions

Catch up on the latest news, views and jobs from The Chemical Engineer. Below are the four latest issues. View a wider selection of the archive from within the Magazine section of this site.