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Meet our professors

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Our professors lead our research, ensuring our research has impact on the learning opportunities for all of our students as well as impact on practice. 

Our professors are also our leading contributors to new knowledge, working at the forefront of their respective subjects, and drawing on their experience and expertise to develop future generations of research leaders. 

We hope you enjoy reading about how they are advancing knowledge.


Professor Anne Goodenough

Professor of Applied Ecology

Anne’s research focuses on applied ecology: monitoring, managing and conserving species and habitats. She has a particular interest in enhancing ecological surveying through the use of technology. This covers topics as diverse as optimising acoustic monitoring of British bats, surveying African antelope using thermal imaging, using chemical stable isotope analysis to understand bird migration, and harnessing Twitter to understand ecological phenomena such as starling murmurations. She frequently collaborates with external organisations and regularly co-publishes with practitioners and students. She works on many different taxonomic groups, including microbes, plants, insects, arachnids, and mammals, and especially birds, which have always fascinated her.


Every year, a small black-and-white songbird returns to the UK to breed after over-wintering in sub-Saharan Africa. This species, the pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca), is declining but understanding of wintering ecology is lacking. This project involved taking a tiny clipping from a wing feather from UK-breeding birds as part of normal ringing activities. These feathers had been grown in Africa and the African carbon stable isotope chemical signature was “locked in” to these feathers. Analysis showed that birds over-wintering in wetter areas produced substantially more chicks on UK breeding grounds the following spring. This will hopefully help inform African-based conservation.

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Professor Melanie Ilic

Professor of Soviet History

Melani​e has published w​idely in the areas of Soviet women’s history and victim studies of the Great Terror under Stalin. She has edited several volumes of essays relating to these topics, including most recently The Palgrave Handbook of Women and Gender in Twentieth-Century Russia and the Soviet Union (2018).


In her study, Women’s Experiences of 1937: Everyday Legacies on the Purges and the Great Terror in the Soviet Union, (2018), Melanie examines the experiences of repression recounted in a broad selection of Soviet women’s life narratives in primary source documentation. The study shows how the purges had a lifelong impact that reverberated across generations.

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Professor Philip Esler

Portland Chair in New Testament Studies

Philip Esler specialises in the social scientific interpretation of biblical and extra-biblical texts and ancient legal papyri, and in biblical theology and the Bible and the visual arts. He has been Portland Chair in New Testament Studies since September 2013. Prior to his appointment here he had been Professor of Biblical Criticism and the Vice-Principal for Research at the University of St Andrews, Chief Executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Principal of St Mary’s University College, Twickenham. His first career was as a solicitor and barrister in Sydney, Australia. He holds a D. Phil and a DD from Oxford University and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.


In 2017 Oxford University Press published Philip’s Babatha’s Orchard: The Yadin Papyri and An Ancient Jewish Family Tale Retold. Babatha was a Jewish woman who hid her legal documents in a Dead Sea cave in ad135, where they were found in 1961. In this book, Philip shows that underlying the oldest four documents (written in Nabatean Aramaic) is a remarkable chain of events from ad99 by which Babatha’s father came to buy a date-palm orchard on the Dead Sea shore that he later gave to her. Most ancient sources only focus on elite people and a story like this, of ordinary villagers, is very rare.

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Dr Abigail Gardner

Reader in Music and Media

Abigail writes on music and ageing, music video and music documentary, and produces community film and media. Publications include PJ Harvey and Music Video Performance and Rock On: Women, Ageing and Popular Music. Her current research is for a book on ageing and contemporary female musicians for Routledge.


Abigail’s research centres on the idea of marginality and her written, film and media work interrogates that idea in various ways. Abigail is currently interested in ageing and temporality, particularly in relation to women and ageing across popular music. She is Principal Investigator on two Erasmus + European projects, one on diversity and digital storytelling (, the other on media literacy for refugee, asylum-seeking and migrant women. She has also co-produced In My Own Right, a documentary short on the women who run the Cheltenham Synagogue.

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Professor Arran Stibbe

Professor in Ecological Linguistics

Arran is one of the leading ecolinguists in the world. He is founder of the International Ecolinguistics Association, which has more than 650 members. Arran has been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship for excellence in teaching.


Arran’s latest research examines global literature in the search for inspiring forms of language to help us reconnect with the natural world. As it becomes increasingly clear that the current stories that industrial society is based on are leading towards inequality and environmental destruction, the task of searching for new stories to live by becomes increasingly urgent. Literature is a key source for these new stories since it provides gateways to other possible worlds.

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Dr Emily Ryall

Reader in Applied Philosophy

Emily has a wide range of research interests – she has written and spoken on the impact of technology on sport, aesthetics of football, the philosophy of play, and critical thinking. She has successfully supervised research students to doctoral level and is currently Research Ethics Chair for the university.


Emily is currently leading a European project on ethics and sports governance with four other European partners. She is working with the world-leading sports dispute resolution service, Sports Resolutions, to develop a compendium of case studies in sports law that will highlight ethical issues and provide a resource for sports practice and governance.

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Dr Philippa Ward

Reader in Services Marketing

With over 25 years of retail and academic experience, Philippa has a range of journal and book publications, over 20 doctoral completions and a similar number of examinations. Her research centres on the effects of the in- store environment on customers, de-shopping, and retail theatre. These areas are also the focus of her doctoral supervisions. This interest in retailing was generated through her management roles within Debenhams and Asda. She also continues to work with a number of retailers, manufacturers and marketing agencies as a consultant. Philippa is also a head of the Marketing and Retail Analysis Research Centre – where research on issues such as consumer behaviour and services marketing is located.

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Professor Neil Towers

Professor of Retail Marketing

With over 35 years of academic and business experience, Neil’s international expertise underpins high-quality applied research and scholarly activity that impact both business performance and knowledge creation. His expertise centres on agile digital retail marketing, fashion supply chain management and small business growth. He has led significant research projects worth over £3.15m in the last four years, focusing on building entrepreneurial capacity in Indonesia and developing a fashion supply chain visibility tool. He was previously director of the George Davies Centre for Retail Excellence (CRE). He is also editor-in-chief of a leading European journal and has a successful ​record of PhD completions and supervision in the areas of retail marketing, business management and supply chain management.

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Professor Kamal Bechkoum

Professor of Computing and Head of School of Business and Technology

Kamal is an experienced senior leader and academic in higher education (HE) with an international background and an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the UK HE sector. Kamal has over 20 years’ experience working in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and its applications to business and industry.


Kamal is interested in research projects related to the application of AI and machine learning to engineering design, cyber security and big data analytics. Examples of some of his PhD students’ projects include ‘Modelling Virtual Characters’ and ‘Implications of Cybercrime in Nepal from the Perspective of Corporate Social Responsibility’.

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Professor Shujun Zhang

Professor of Computing and Technology

Shujun has more than 30 years’ experience of engineering and computing research and teaching in higher education. He has published over 100 academic p​apers, contributed to four books and is currently co-authoring two research books. His main areas of interest include applied computing and innovative product design and development, including bionics engineering.


The health of living organisms is dependent on a cell’s condition and research shows that the more energetically a cell pulses, the healthier it is. This project employs scientific and engineering theories to study the relationship between electromagnetic signals and cell pulsations, with the aim of developing bionic technologies to enhance cell pulsations and, hence, their health.

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Professor Adam Hart

Professor of Science Communication

Adam Hart is an entomologist and the university’s Professor of Science Communication. As well as research and teaching, he is a regular broadcaster for BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service, presenting documentaries on topics from trophy hunting to tree diseases. He has also presented the weekly science program Science in Action for the BBC World Service. On television, Adam has co-presented several documentary series, most notably BBC4’s Planet Ant and BBC2’s Hive Alive.


Every summer across the UK we see millions of winged ants taking to the sky in a spectacular mating event. But what triggers these ants to fly, how coordinated are they across the country and is there really a flying ant ‘day’? With the help of the public, and working in partnership with the Royal Society of Biology, Adam and the research team were able to answer these questions using one of the UK’s largest citizen science projects.

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Professor Mark De Ste Croix

Professor of Paediatric Sport and Exercise

Mark’s interests in children’s sport, physical activity and neuromuscular physiology have culminated in research into injury risk in youth performers. He has published over 100 articles and presented at over 100 conferences across the globe. He works predominantly in football, identifying injury risk via screening and implementing prevention programmes. A key focus of Mark’s work is to help coaches develop their understanding of prevention strategies.


Mark has just led an Erasmus+ European-funded project with partners in Spain and the Czech Republic to explore the knowledge and understanding of grass root coaches in terms of youth injury prevention. He has also obtained funding from FIFA, UEFA and the English FA to explore injury risk in female youth football, and works with organisations such as the England and Wales Cricket Board, Athletic Club Bilbao Football Club and Bristol City Football Club.

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