Meet the Team
Exeter Science Centre is a charity (CIO) led by two founding directors, Dr Natalie Whitehead and Dr Alice Mills, and a Board of Trustees who govern the charity and oversee its operations. Find out more about the team below, including our Patron, staff and volunteers.
We are currently forming a Strategic Advisory Board to help guide our overall trajectory and plans for the physical science centre – find out about our board members below, and get in touch if you have the expertise we need!
Dr Natalie Whitehead
Founder & Director
Natalie finished her PhD in Physics at the University of Exeter in September 2019, and started setting up the Exeter Science Centre as soon as her thesis was submitted. She has been a passionate science communicator during her PhD and undergraduate Masters degree, leading many workshops, outreach events and giving talks to schools and the public. She has also taught, coached and mentored many students from A-Level to University level alongside her studies. Prior to this, she was a Trainee consulting engineer, studying part-time towards a BEng in Building Services Engineering, with a specialism in building physics and sustainability.
Dr Alice Mills
Founder & Director
Alice has a PhD in Astrophysics from Durham University, and was the Science Outreach Officer for the University of Exeter from 2015-2020, developing and delivering workshops and talks across the South West, running large-scale events, building relationships with schools and local industry/organisations and working with academics to engage the public with their research. Alice is passionate about making science more accessible and understandable for all, in particular in Devon, where she grew up. In her spare time Alice enjoys playing the violin and piano and spending time in nature with her family.
Prof. Justin Dillon
Chair of Trustees: Justin is professor of science and environmental education at University College London. He spent 10 years as a secondary school teacher and then moved into higher education. His research interests include learning and engagement in out-of-school settings. He is a Trustee of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom.
Dr Sarah Usher
Sarah has over 20 years experience teaching Physics, Science and Maths. In addition to running a Physics Department in a top rated secondary school, Sarah has also been a Teacher Fellow for the Ogden Trust and ran a very successful Science Outreach program in East Devon for over 10 years. She is now an applications engineer for a large international optics company.
Prof Pete Vukusic
Pete is Associate Dean for Education and Professor of Physics at the University of Exeter. He is an internationally award-winning science communicator and a qualified and experienced schools teacher. He formed and leads the Natural Photonics Research group and delivers academic talks and runs outreach events across the UK, the EU, the US, China and Africa.
Treasurer: Chris is a semi-retired Chartered Accountant, formerly a Finance Director of two large West Country based companies and City Academy in Bristol. Chris has wide experience in charity governance, as a Trustee (and former Chair) of We The Curious in Bristol, and of Prout Bridge Project in Beaminster. He was also a Governor of three schools and Academy Trusts.
Dr Celia Butler
Celia is a Senior Applications Engineer at Synopsys; working with engineers, researchers and medical professionals to generate models used to solve complex problems. Celia has previous experience leading research projects and product development in commercial and academic teams. She is a Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter.
David is an award-winning business mentor, former Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Exeter, and board member of a number of educational companies and charities. He has great experience in establishing and running successful businesses in a range of disciplines, in the UK and abroad.
Olya Petrakova is an actor, director and creative industries practitioner with over fifteen years’ experience. With an emphasis on creative entrepreneurship, Olya specialises in transforming disused urban and rural spaces into performance venues. Olya is Director of MAKETANK, co-Artistic Director of ARTEL and Lecturer/MA Creativity at the University of Exeter.
We are delighted to have George Monbiot as the Patron of our charity, since November 2023. George is an author, broadcaster and academic, whose current research focus is global food systems. George has received many accolades for his work including the UN Global 500 for outstanding environmental achievement in 1995, and the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 2022.
(click for more about George)
George’s far-reaching career has had a strong thread of science running through it, starting from his degree in Zoology from the University of Oxford and his time producing environmental radio programmes in the BBC Natural History Unit.
More recently, George helped to found the charity Rewilding Britain, he is an honorary fellow at Wolfson College at the University of Oxford, he is on the board of EAT, the scientific forum that seeks ways of transforming the global food system, and has written many books and articles, and produced TED Talks, films and videos relating to the science of global issues (amongst many other topics), particularly climate change, rewilding and food systems. His latest book, ‘Regenesis: Feeding the World Without Devouring the Planet’ draws on astonishing advances in soil ecology to explore pioneering ways to grow more food with less farming.
We are hugely inspired by George’s work, and his tireless efforts to highlight global issues and help people to understand, care about and work towards tackling them. We are incredibly grateful for his support.
Strategic Advisory Board
We’re forming our Strategic Advisory Board of individuals who are knowledgeable about the needs of academia, industry and the public in Exeter and the region. They are generously contributing their time to advise on the overall trajectory of our organisation, with a particular emphasis on the physical science centre.
We are still looking for board members who have expertise in property development and creating / running larger-scale museums or cultural venues. Could this be you? Get in touch!
Chair: Stuart Brocklehurst – Deputy Vice Chancellor for Business Engagement and Innovation, University of Exeter
Stuart joined the University of Exeter’s Executive Board in March 2023. He leads the University’s collaboration between academic teams and industry partners to deliver positive change, and is Director of GreenFutures Solutions.
He has had an extensive business career, with past roles including CEO of a multi-award-winning technology company Applegate Marketplace Ltd, Group Communications Director of Amadeus IT Group and Senior Vice President at Visa International.
Stuart is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Fellow of the British Computer Society. He has served on numerous company boards, and some of his current roles include Director of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership and of the Great South West Pan Regional Partnership, Chair of the region’s Innovation Board and member of the Exeter Liveable Place Board. In his role as Chair of ESC’s Strategic Advisory Board, he is responsible for ensuring the meetings are effectively run and representing the Board in external meetings.
Paul Coles – CEO South-West Business Council (SWBC)
Paul was appointed as the CEO of SWBC in Feb 2021. The South-West Business Council represents the interests of businesses across the region, and their key aim is to “Convene, Inform, Connect”.
Prior to SWBC, Paul was BT Group’s English Regional Director where he was responsible for developing strategic relationships with combined and local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, business, education and community organisations.
Paul is based in the South-West and sits on the following external boards:
- Heart of the South-West LEP – Non-Exec Director
- Great South-West – Innovation Board
- Tech South-West Advisory Board
- Strategic Advisory Board – Exeter Science Centre
- Advisory Board – South-West Cyber Resilience Centre
- The Royal North Devon Golf Club – Vice Chair
Frazer Osment – Chair, LDA Design
Frazer is Chair of LDA Design, a fully employee owned consultancy of urban designers, landscape architects and planners working together to shape the world for the better. Some of their recent work includes the Liveable Exeter Vision and masterplanning new developments in the city.
Frazer leads the Strategic Leadership Board responsible for the company’s business direction. With a particular interest in sustainable development, he has almost 30 years experience as a designer and masterplanner, delivering new places and regeneration at all scales.
Meg Booth – Director of Climate Change, Environment and Transport, Devon County Council
Meg has responsibility for managing Devon’s assets including highways, schools and county estates, and the Council’s Capital Programme. She was appointed Chief Officer for Highways, Infrastructure, Development and Waste in 2017 and is now Director for Climate Change, Environment and Transport.
Meg is a Chartered Engineer and a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a Fellow of the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation and has a BEng in civil engineering.
Geri Panteva – Senior Economic Development Officer, East Devon District Council
Geri has a broad range of experience in the public, private and non-profit sector, and was formerly Economic Development Officer for Devon County Council.
In her current role, she leads on tourism and economic development for East Devon, which includes improving skills provision, securing public funding, developing projects and managing programmes and campaigns to support SMEs and micro businesses in the region.
Staff and Volunteers
Ross Castle – Projects Officer
Ross joined us part-time in February 2023 to help re-design and deliver our second Climate Exhibition. He now works with Natalie and Alice on their events and projects.
Ross is a part-time PhD student at the University of Exeter, studying planetary atmospheres. He has an undergraduate degree in mathematics, and a passion for STEAMM communication and making things!
We’re lucky to have so many volunteers who dedicate their time and enthusiasm to helping with our events – some of our volunteers from the past couple of years are pictured below!
The different perspectives, experiences and skills that trustees, interns, work experience students and volunteers bring to our organisation are so valuable.
We are really grateful to all our past contributors and list those who have left within the past couple of years here:
Charlie Young (April 2021-June 2023)
Stephanie Amil (Treasurer, April 2021-February 2022)
Charlie and Stephanie were two of our Founding Trustees, and we’re so grateful for their support as we developed the charity.
Our 2022 climate pop-up mediators: we’re so grateful to the 32 volunteers who helped as mediators in our pop-up exhibition – most of them are shown in our Thank You image wall here!
Leah Heath (July-August 2022) – Knowledge Nibble infographics.
Liv Chisholm-El Saad (July-August 2022) – researching potential festivals and events + Knowledge Nibble infographics.
James K Myers
We are deeply saddened that Jim passed away in early February 2023. Jim was an invaluable member of our team, generously providing a great deal of time and enthusiasm to help us with our philanthropic funding efforts.
Jim’s extensive background in philanthropic giving, as the founder of Philanthropy Impact and more recently as a partner in the charity publishing firm, Social Partnership Marketing, has been invaluable to our Charity. We are honoured to have known and worked with him, and he will be sorely missed.