Department of Engineering / Profiles / Prof. Ann Dowling

Department of Engineering

Prof. Ann Dowling OM DBE FRS FREng


Ann Dowling

Emeritus Staff

Academic Division: Energy, Fluids and Turbomachinery

Research group: Fluids


Research interests

Professor Dame Ann Dowling's research aims to enable society to have power and mobility without environmental damage or excessive noise. There are two main themes, one associated with efficient, low-emission combustion, and the second with understanding, modelling and reducing the noise from cars, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and domestic appliances such as vacuum cleaners and fans.

The drive for low emissions is causing aero and industrial gas turbine combustors to operate on the verge of instability. Ann Dowling's research has been aimed at understanding this phenomenon involving theoretical modelling, computations and experiments. Her team have developed techniques predict the onset, frequency and limit cycle amplitudes of the self-excited oscillations that are the result of the instabilities. Both passive and active means of control have been investigated, and various successful approaches have been demonstrated.

In recent years, Ann Dowling's research on aircraft noise has concentrated particularly on jet noise, a major noise source at take-off. Her group have developed models to predict the noise and investigate and optimise various mitigation techniques. They have also investigated combustion noise, which is of increasing importance in the external noise from aircraft. Techniques have been developed to reduce noise in a wide range of applications.

Strategic themes

Energy, transport and urban infrastructure

System-level design and optimisation of new transport solutions that balance environmental, economic and social factors. Founding member of the Energy Efficient Cities Initiative (EECi).

Manufacturing, design and materials

Ann Dowling has research collaborations with a number of companies. She led the University Gas Turbine Partnership, a collaboration between Rolls-Royce and the University of Cambridge, from 2001-14.

Research opportunities

Ann Dowling is now an Emeritus Professor and is no longer accepting research students nor hosting visitors.

Other positions

  • Trustee of the Cambridge Trusts
  • Trustee of the Isaac Newton Trust
  • Non-executive director the Smiths Group plc
  • Commissioner of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851


Professor Dame Ann Dowling is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and Emeritus Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

She was President of the Royal Academy of Engineering 2014-19, Head of the Department of Engineering at Cambridge 2009-14, and has held visiting posts at MIT (Jerome C Hunsaker Visiting Professor, 1999) and at Caltech (Moore Distinguished Scholar 2001).  

Ann is a Fellow of the Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering and is a Foreign Member of the US and Chinese National Academies of Engineering and of the French Academy of Sciences. She is an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Institution of Engineering Designers and the Institution of Engineering and Technology, and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and of the Institute of Acoustics. Ann was awarded the James Watt International Gold Medal by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 2016, and the Royal Medal by the Royal Society in 2019. She has an Honorary Doctorates from 21 universities including Oxford University, Imperial College London, Trinity College Dublin, KTH Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm and McGill University Canada. 

Ann has served on a number industry and government advisory committees. She is a non-executive director of the Smiths Group plc and chairs their Science, Sustainability and Excellence Committee. She was a non-executive director of bp plc (2012-21) and a non-executive member of the board of the UK government's Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) 2014-16 and of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) 2017-18. She was a member of the Prime Minister's Council for Science and Technology (2014-19). In 2015 she chaired a review for BIS on business-university research collaborations.

Ann was appointed CBE for services to Mechanical Engineering in 2002, DBE for services to Science in 2007, and was appointed to the Order of Merit by the Queen in December 2015.