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Champions to put the spotlight on York research

Posted on 10 June 2015

The University of York today announces the appointment of seven ‘Research Champions’ who will help to harness the University’s cross-disciplinary research strengths to best tackle the great scientific, social and environmental challenges of our time.

The appointments reflect the seven themes which are a key feature of the University’s new Research Strategy, launched in January 2015. The Research Champions and their associated research themes are:

Professor Karen Bloor – Health and Wellbeing

Professor Sue Hartley – Environmental Sustainability and Resilience

Dr Mark Jenner – Culture and Communication

Professor Thomas Krauss – Technologies for the Future

Professor John McDermid – Risk, Evidence and Decision-making

Dr Damian Murphy – Creativity

Professor Kate Pickett – Justice and Equality

York is ranked in the top ten institutions in the UK for the impact of its research, while the proportion of its research classed as world-leading 4* status is among the highest of any UK university.  The research champions will give York’s major interdisciplinary research strengths focus, identity and presence, helping to encourage interdepartmental and international research activity and partnerships.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Koen Lamberts said: “The seven research champions we have appointed are an outstanding group of individuals who will provide vision, focus and intellectual leadership for cross-disciplinary activities within our research themes. They are academics of the highest calibre who will offer a new and exciting perspective for our world class research.”

Health and Well-Being

Karen Bloor is Professor of Health Economics and Policy in the Department of Health Sciences. Since arriving in York as a junior researcher in health economics in 1991, Karen has been involved in a number of multidisciplinary research projects subjects relating to the financing and delivery of health care,. Recently she led the English contribution to a large European project on variations in health care. She has also conducted research on medical workforce policy, including pay and productivity of hospital doctors. She teaches health economics and health policy, not only within the University of York but also for international organisations including the World Bank and the World Health Organisation.

Environmental Sustainability and Resilience

Sue Hartley is Professor of Ecology in the Department of Biology and founding Director of the York Environmental Sustainability Institute (YESI).  The Institute is among the UK’s largest clusters of inter-disciplinary environmental research comprising over 150 researchers from across all three faculties to tackle global challenges that threaten us and our planet. Professor Hartley studied at Oxford (BA Biochemistry) and completed a DPhil (Ecology) at York. Previously Professor of Ecology at the University of Sussex her research focuses on the interactions between plants and other organisms In 2009 she delivered the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, only the fourth woman to do so since they were started by Sir Michael Faraday in 1825. She is a fellow of the Royal Entomological Society and is President-elect of the British Ecological Society.

Culture and Communication

Mark Jenner is a Reader in the Department of History and was until recently Chair of its Research Committee. He works on the social and cultural history of early modern England and on the social history of medicine c.1500-c.1800. His primary research interest in ideas of dirt and pollution has generated numerous publications and international conference presentations, and he has served on the Editorial Boards of Medical History, Social History of Medicine and Urban History.An active member of the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies and a former Director of the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, he is committed to interdisciplinary work which relates archival research to theoretical concerns and to current work within anthropology, literary studies and social theory.

Technologies for the Future

Thomas Krauss is Professor of Photonics in the Department of Physics at York. His research focuses on understanding and controlling the light-matter interaction in photonic nanostructures, with a particular interest in photonic crystals. His activity spans the study of light emission and propagation in areas such as nanolasers, optical switches, biosensors and solar cells. Completing a PhD in Engineering in Glasgow in 1992, Professor Krauss was Chair of Optoelectronics and Head of School at the University of St Andrews before joining York in 2012. A Fellow of the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Optical Society of America, he has led several large UK and EU research projects and gives invited presentations at numerous international conferences each year.

Risk, Evidence and Decision Making

John McDermid is a Professor of Software Engineering and a member of the High Integrity Systems Engineering Group (HISE) in the Department of Computer Science which he headed from 2006 to 2012. His primary research interests are in high integrity computer systems, especially in safety and security. Professor McDermid’s work has influenced industrial practice both directly and via standards, and he is best known for developing techniques for managing evidence of safety, supporting risk-informed decision-making. He has taught extensively at postgraduate level, including on continuing professional development courses for industry. He is a Government advisor and a member of the Rolls-Royce Electrical and Controls Advisory Board. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and was appointed OBE in 2010.


Damian Murphy leads research in virtual acoustics and spatial audio in the University’s AudioLab in the Department of Electronics and is Reader in Audio and Music Technology. An active sound artist, Dr Murphy was appointed an AHRC/ACE Arts and Science Research Fellow in 2004. His background spans multiple fields, and his studies at York (BSc Maths, MSc Music Technology, DPhil Electronics), reflect his multi-disciplinary approach. He is a member of the Audio Engineering Society and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He held visiting researcher positions at McGill University, Canada and Aalto University, Finland, and is visiting lecturer to the Department of Speech, Music and Hearing at Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. A founding member of Geodesic Arts, his creative work has been presented in galleries, festivals and venues internationally.

Justice and Equality

Kate Pickett is Professor of Epidemiology in the University’s Department of Health Sciences. She trained in biological anthropology at Cambridge, nutritional sciences at Cornell and epidemiology at UC-Berkeley. Professor Pickett was a UK NIHR Career Scientist from 2007-12, is a Fellow of the RSA and a Fellow of the UK Faculty of Public Health. She is a co-founder and trustee of The Equality Trust. She is co-author of The Spirit Level. The book argues that societies with more equal distribution of incomes have better health, fewer social problems and are more cohesive than ones in which the gap between the rich and poor is greater. It was chosen as one of the top ten books of the decade by the New Statesman and has been translated into 24 languages.

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