Phil James

Project Director

Phil James is director of the Newcastle Urban Observatory and co-leads the National Observatory Programme. His role is the overall management and direction of the observatory programme and generating strategic partnerships with researchers, civic society and industry.

His research is at the intersection of Engineering and Computer Science with a recent focus on IoT and environmental monitoring and how we apply emerging technologies to real-world solutions. He is PI on the EPSRC CORONA (City Observatory Research platfOrm for iNnovation and Analytics) project and participates as Co-I in a research portfolio of interdisciplinary research worth over £15m.

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Jennine Jonczyk

UO Programme Manager

Jennine Jonczyk works on the strategic development of the Urban Observatory with our internal and external stakeholders; seeks innovation in urban sensing and new ways of ‘visualising’ the city; and works with stakeholders on the co-design of sensor deployment locations to ensure suitability and usability of data. She manages permissions, licences, collaboration and partnership agreements, budgets, sensor planning, and deployment logistics.

She is a water specialist, with a PhD in mitigation methods to reduce diffuse water pollution, and a holistic catchment scientist with over 12 years of experience of environmental monitoring. Jennine is enthusiastic about many things and passionate about beautiful and functional urban drainage!

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Luke Smith

Deputy Director

Luke Smith leads the software engineering at the Urban Observatory, responsible for managing the storage, provision and communications for its billions of observations. He is a trained civil engineer, with a PhD in flood forecasting on supercomputer architectures. Luke’s research interests focus on technologies to integrate modelling and processes across traditional disciplinary boundaries, and novel methods for data visualisation.

His experience includes a decade of programming and systems administration, founder of a company blending geospatial data to create 3D mapping products, and leading projects at the House of Commons, IKEA, British Airways and RBS.

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Neil Harris

Full Stack Software Engineer

Neil Harris was instrumental in establishing the Urban Observatory, as the original and once sole software developer. He developed prototypes for the web front end, database, and communication layer. Neil is now mainly responsible for the web services, creating a responsive web portal, displaying, graphing, and delivering data. He also develops our internal tools for managing data and interrogating sensors.

He graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in Geographical Information Science, and began work at the same school. Before joining the Urban Observatory, he worked on numerous projects, developing web portals and data tools focused around climate science. Before that he was a paperboy.

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Tom Komar

Machine Learning Engineer

Tom's role at Urban Observatory is to develop applications for analysis of sensor data and imagery. Software he builds forms numerous micro-services in the UO stack, and forms parts of the data capture, analysis and presentation systems. Machine Learning methods developed at the Urban Observatory extract quantitative data from imagery, cluster information for efficient time-series management, and highlight suspicious sensor readings. They are used to enrich captured observations, enhance archiving and retrieval of information, and improve data quality for use in research.

Before joining the Urban Observatory he worked in transport modelling and urban planning, where he created travel demand models and urban development simulations.

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Richard Turland

Sensor Engineer

Richard graduated from Newcastle University and began software engineering with BT. After 10 years with BT and a couple travelling in Asia, he worked as a Java and Oracle contractor with BT, Sky, Virgin, NHS, and DHSS.

Seeking change, he spent a year doing voluntary construction work for the Star & Shadow Community cinema, and really enjoyed practical work away from a desk. He joined the Urban Observatory and has been up and down lampposts ever since.

When not ferrying his son’s band, he still volunteers at the cinema. His main interests are gigs, beer, comedy, travel, cycling, hill-walking, climbing lampposts, biscuits, Half Man Half Biscuit.


Stephanie Glendinning

National Observatory Lead

Professor Stephanie Glendinning is lead on observatories for the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC), responsible for delivery of the UK National Observatory. She is lead for the urban sciences initiative at Newcastle, focused on the Newcastle Helix site as a hub for full-scale operational infrastructure as a laboratory, in which to develop research and impact.

Her research is primarily concentrated on infrastructure resilience, from material to network scale, using the understanding of the underpinning science to inform performance models, data needs and business models. She is lead on the £4.8M programme grant ACHILLES (Assessment, Costing and enHancement of long lIfe, Long Linear assEtS).


Richard Dawson

Newcastle UKCRIC Lead

Professor Richard Dawson is a co-lead of the Newcastle Urban Observatory and Newcastle’s overall lead for UKCRIC (UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities). A civil engineer by background, his research focuses on understanding environmental risks to cities and infrastructure.

He is using the UO’s unique scale and resolution of observation to understand resilience to extreme events, infrastructure performance and deterioration, and the interdependencies between infrastructure. This will ultimately create a ‘digital twin’, a virtual replica of the city to aid planning and understand long term change.

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Yvonne Hübner

UKCRIC Programme Manager

Yvonne Hübner is the overall UKCRIC Programme Manager at Newcastle University where she manages the delivery of the UKCRIC Newcastle Infrastructure grant and the UKCRIC Urban Observatories grant. She oversees project governance and ensures that the research outcomes are delivered. She is passionate about applied research that informs professional practice and policymaking.

Throughout her career, she has been the study lead for innovative real-world demonstration projects which form part of society's advancements in cooperative systems, smart cities and electric vehicles. Projects included one of Europe’s largest cooperative systems trial Compass4D, the Rapid Charge Network project and the Newcastle Gateshead Urban Living Partnership.


Aare Puussaar


Aare runs SenseMyStreet, enabling citizens to commission sensors from the Urban Observatory, to collect evidence for local decision-making. He works on engaging the wider public with the work of Urban Observatory and helping to get people's voices into the observatory.

Aare is pursuing a PhD as part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Civics at Newcastle University's Open Lab. His research is exploring opportunities for designing data-driven tools and processes to support civic participation and advocacy. Before starting his PhD he worked as a data scientist in spatial mobility, using computational methods to derive insights from raw data in order to understand human behaviour. Hi is also a fitness enthusiast, slow runner and a novice rock climber.

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Get in touch

Call Jennine on 0191 208 8599

or email with "Research" in the subject

Get in touch

email with "Sense_my_street" in the subject