Pro Vice-Chancellor, College of Physical Sciences & Engineering

Professor Karen Holford
Professor Karen Holford FREng, FLSW, CEng FIMechE

Professor Karen Holford is Pro Vice-Chancellor, College of Physical Sciences & Engineering and is responsible for the overall management and leadership of the College.

Professor Holford plays a key role in setting the strategy and direction of the College and in promoting the development of learning and teaching and research excellence. As Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Holford is also a member of the University Executive Board.

Professor Holford is a Chartered Engineer (Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers), a Chartered Physicist (Fellow of the Institute of Physics) and Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.

She joined the School of Engineering as a lecturer in 1990, becoming its first female director in 2010. Prior to joining the University Professor Holford worked in industry, including posts as an undergraduate engineer at Rolls-Royce Ltd and as a senior design engineer at AB Electronic Products Ltd.

Academic Schools

The College of Physical Sciences and Engineering consists of seven Schools:

  • Architecture
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science and Informatics
  • Earth and Ocean Sciences
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Physics and Astronomy.


Professor Holford is an active researcher in the field of acoustic emission (AE) applied to damage assessment across a range of industrial applications including bridges, aerospace landing gear and a range of materials including composites (CFRP/GFRP), concrete and metals.

Most recently the work of her team has focussed on improved AE damage location techniques, energy harvesting, embedded sensors and other technology aimed at developing autonomous structural health monitoring systems.

Professor Holford has published over 150 research works including more than 70 papers in peer-reviewed journals. She has led numerous research projects sponsored by both research councils and industry.

Alongside her research, Professor Holford is committed to the delivery of high quality, industrially relevant learning. She was the Faculty Advisor for the Formula Student team for several years, reflecting a personal interest in motorsport.

Karen is a member of EPSRC Strategic Advisory network and Chair of the ESPRC Engineering Strategic Advisory Team.

Memberships and awards

Professor Holford was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2015, one of the highest national honours an engineer can receive.

She contributes enthusiastically to external activities on a voluntary basis, for instance, she is a founding member of the WISE in Wales committee.

In 2006 she was the recipient of the Welsh Woman of the Year in Science and Technology in recognition of notable achievements in her field. In 2007 she was awarded the WISE Excellence award for personal contribution to engineering and a long term commitment to supporting girls and young women in science and engineering.

She is an advisory board member for 'Science made Simple' and a trustee of the Engineering Education Scheme for Wales. This scheme, run in partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering, has been operating since 1989 and aims to encourage the most able young people in Wales to consider engineering as a career.

Contact details

Personal Assistant: Sarah Dolman