Penny is a physical oceanographer and her research has focused on the circulation and variability of the subpolar North Atlantic, and the role of the ocean in our changing climate. She has participated in 21 seagoing expeditions, several as Chief Scientist. Penny is Associate Head of the Marine Physics and Ocean Climate group at the NOC, and is the UK principal investigator for an international programme researching the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation strength, variability and mechanisms (OSNAP). She holds the role of Science Coordinator for CLASS, a world-leading UK Atlantic science programme supporting national and global strategic needs. She supervises graduate students and coordinates a UK early career scientist fellowship scheme to fund access to berths on research expeditions and visits to research centres.
Penny joined the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences Deacon Laboratory in 1990, initially working as a project manager for a global, multi-national research programme (World Ocean Circulation Experiment, WOCE), and later combining that role with her research. She received her PhD from Liverpool University in 2002, and worked part-time at the NOC from 2003 to 2016, before returning to full-time.
Penny was awarded the title of Honorary Professorial Fellow (Research) by the University of Southampton in June 2019, and was recipient of the Society of Underwater Technology's Oceanography Award in December 2019.
Penny serves on an expert group for the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas , is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the French Oceanographic Fleet, and a UK representative in EuroGOOS and GO-SHIP.
Principal Investigator for the UK OSNAP project, which is part of an international programme to directly observe the subpolar gyre and overturning circulation and property transports.
Science Coordinator and Academic Engagement leader for CLASS, a NERC National Capability programme (2018–2023)
NOC Principal Investigator for a CLASS programme called the Ellett Array, (formerly known as the Extended Ellett Line), which is a long-running project (started in 1975) observing and understanding the ocean west of Britain.
Researcher within ACSIS (the North Atlantic Climate System Integrated Study), and NERC National Capability programme (2016–2021)