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Staff Profile: Prof K M Holford


Prof Karen M Holford



Pro Vice-Chancellor College of Physical Sciences


Teaching Discipline:

Mechanical, Manufacturing and Medical Engineering


Research Theme:

Mechanics, Materials and Advanced Manufacturing


Research Group:

Mechanical and Structural Performance Group



VCO or S1.08








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 University’s School of Engineering as a lecturer in 1990, becoming its director in 2010. In Sept 2012 she was appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor, College of Physical Sciences.
Prior to joining the University Professor Holford worked as senior design engineer at AB Electronic Products Ltd, where she led a variety of projects, in particular in the automotive field with companies such as BMW, Jaguar and Rover. Her first degree was a BEng (Hons) in Mechanical Engineering from UWIST (Cardiff) which was sponsored by Rolls-Royce in Bristol, where she worked during industrial placements and as a graduate engineer. Her PhD in Acoustic Emission was also undertaken in Cardiff, at UCC, sponsored by the Health and Safety Executive.
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 (now commercialised under licence agreement with Physical Acoustics Ltd and the subject of a Highways Agency Advice note), 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 140 research works including more than 70 papers in peer-reviewed journals. She has led numerous research projects sponsored by both research councils and industry. She serves on the EPSRC Peer review panel, EPSRC Strategic Advisory Network, EPSRC Engineering Strategy Advisory Team, editorial boards of international journals, technical and organising committees of several international conferences and is a Vice President of the International Society on Acoustic Emission.
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. She contributes enthusiastically to external activities on a voluntary basis: she is a founding member of the WISE in Wales committee; 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. 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 and in 2007 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.


Professional Activities and Recognition:

Academic and Professional
• Invited Keynote Speaker, World Conference on Acoustic Emission, Beijing, 2011.
• Elected Member of EPSRC College of Peer Review 2003 and 2006
• Invited Keynote Speaker, DAMAS 2009, Beijing, China.
• Invited Seminars; UNSW Australia and Hong Kong Polytechnic (2007)
• Invited Editor; Advanced Materials Research (from 2007)
• Co-Editor; Biennial Special Issues of Key Engineering Materials
• Invited Editor; IMechE Journal of Strain Analysis Special Issue on Acoustic Emission, January 2005
• Editorial Board member; STRAIN (1999 - 2007) and Journal of AE (from 2004)
• Chair of 27th European Conference on Acoustic Emission testing (Sept 2006)
• Chair of 4th International Conference on Damage Assessment 2001 in Cardiff (sponsored by IMechE, IOP, EPSRC) and member of DAMAS technical and organising committees from 1999-2009 in Ireland, UK, Poland, Italy and China
• International Advisory Board; 19th International Acoustic Emission Symposium, Kyoto, Japan, 2008
• Committee Member; Institute of Physics, Stress and Vibration Group (1999 - 2007)
• Committee member; EPSRC Network on Structural Integrity and Damage Assessment, from May 1999 until its incorporation into IOP SAVG group in 2005.
• Research degree examination; Reykjavík, Sheffield, Heriot-Watt, Cranfield, Robert Gordon and Southampton Universities
• Journal reviewer for international journals including Journal of Sound and Vibration, the Journal of Strain Analysis for Engineering Design, Mechanical Systems and Signal Processing, Journal of Process Mechanical Engineering
• External Examiner Cranfield University MSc in Motor Sport Engineering and Management (2004-2007)
• Collaborative research funding; Corus (and formerly as British Steel), TWI, Messier-Dowty, Capita Gwent Consultancy, W S Atkins and W S P Civils

Advisory and Consultancy
• BINDT AE Working Group member: Standards and examinations for AE (CM-GEN)
• Co-opted member of the Department of Trade and Industry (Now DIUS) Measurement Advisory Committee (MAC) Working Group on Acoustics and Ionising Radiation
• Consultant to; British Energy, Royal Mint, Highways Agency, TRL and Amey Mouchal,

Patents and Licences
• 2005 Licence agreement awarded with Physical Acoustics Ltd for Monitoring of Bridges using Acoustic Emission

• 2002 Royal Academy prize: “Engineering Excellence” in TCS work
• 2006 Welsh Woman of the Year in Science and Technology “in recognition of notable achievements in her field”
• 2007 WISE Excellence Award for “personal contribution to engineering and a long term commitment to supporting girls and young women in science and engineering”