The investigators for IRIS-Fire

Dr David



Dr Richard Walls


Dr David Rush is a Lecturer in Structural Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, and is part of the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering. David is the Principal Investigator on the IRIS-Fire Project. His current research interests are in the areas of probabilistic design of structures in fire, understanding fire spread within informal urban settings, understanding fire protection materials for real fires, and developing resilience-based engineering methods for fire safety. Additionally, he is a STEM ambassador and developing a theatrical work to highlight fire risk within the built environment. 

Dr Richard Walls is a lecturer at Stellenbosch University and leads the Fire Engineering Research Unit. He worked full-time as a consultant on industrial and petrochemical projects before joining Stellenbosch in 2014, although still consults to industry. His research interests include fire design of structures, fire behavior, demolition, steel design, informal settlement fires, and was the editor of the soon to be released SANS 10162-1 steel design fire annex. He works closely with local fire services carrying out full-scale fire testing and developing solutions for fires in informal settlements. 

Dr Graham Spinardi


Dr Rory Hadden


Dr Graham Spinardi is the Ove Arup Foundation/Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research Fellow in Integrating Technical and Social Aspects of Fire Safety at the University of Edinburgh. He has a long record researching the social shaping of technologies, with particular emphasis on historical studies of military and aerospace technologies. His current research interests focus on sociological accounts of how fire safety knowledge is constructed and implemented, and he teaches a course on Fire Safety, Engineering & Society to engineering students at the University of Edinburgh.

Dr Rory Hadden is the Rushbrook Lecturer in Fire Investigation. Prior to joining the University of Edinburgh he held positons at University of Western Ontario and Imperial College London.  His research interests include pyrolysis, ignition and flammability of solid fuels with application to the built and natural environments. Rory specialises in experimental work ranging from laboratory scale studies to field scale measurements of fire phenomena with novel sensing methods. Rory has featured in the BBC FOUR documentary Catching History’s Criminals, the Jeremy Vine Show and the Edinburgh International Science Festival. 

Prof Luke Bisby


Dr Sarah-Jane Cooper-Knock


Prof Luke Bisby is the Chair of Fire and Structures at the University of Edinburgh. He was previously Assistant Professor and Chair of Undergraduate Studies in Civil Engineering at Queen’s University, Canada. Originally trained as a structural engineer with primary research interests in the use of advanced polymer composites in structural engineering applications, Bisby has gradually broadened his research activity to include work in fire safety, structural fire engineering, engineered timber, risk, resilience, engineering education, and social aspects of fire safety.

Sarah-Jane is a Lecturer in International Development at the Centre of African Studies and Social Anthropology. Her research focuses on South Africa and Uganda. Sarah-Jane's research interests include: the politics of urban development and urbanisation; law and social order; everyday justice, and the politics of mega events. Previously, she studied citizens' involvement in informal settlement upgrading in Durban, South Africa. Alongside this project, she is currently exploring Magistrates Courts and dispute resolution in Durban, South Africa, and Gulu, Uganda.

PDRA's and PhD students

Dr Lesley Gibson

Dr Charles Kahanji




Dr Lesley Gibson has more than 16 years’ professional experience in GIS and remote sensing. She has worked extensively in the Western Cape, South Africa for research councils, a private consultancy and a nature conservation board. She moved to Scotland in 2016 and was initially a lecturer in GIS for Environmental Management at Glasgow Caledonian University. She subsequently accepted a Postdoctoral Research Associate position at Edinburgh University with a focus on fire safety for international development.  

Dr Charles Kahanji is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at Stellenbosch University working on the IRIS-Fire project. He obtained his PhD in structural fire engineering from Ulster University in 2017, working on high performance fibre reinforced concrete. He previously lectured at the University of Zambia. He obtained his MEng in structural engineering from the Wuhan University of Technology, China, and his under-graduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Zambia. His research interests are in fire behaviour and performance of construction materials and informal settlement fires. He worked a consulting engineer in Zambia for two years.    

Dr Yu Wang

Mr. Mohamed Beshir

Dr Yu Wang is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Edinburgh with a focus on experimental studies of informal settlement fire. In 2016, he obtained his double PhD degrees of Fire Safety Engineering in University of Science and Technology of China and City University of Hong Kong, working on glass façade thermal breakage in fire. After graduation, he worked as a Research Fellow at National University of Singapore and then joined the IRIS-Fire project from the end of 2017. His research interests are informal settlement fire modelling, fire performance of construction materials (e.g. glass and concrete) and fire safety issues in green buildings and renewable resources.

Mohamed Beshir graduated from the International Master of Science in Fire Safety Engineering (IMFSE) in 2017. Mohamed holds a BSc in Mechanical Engineering from Alexandria University, Egypt and worked as a visiting researcher in different universities e.g. University of Delaware, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and KAUST. Beshir’s PhD is part of the IRIS-Fire project and will involve research into the fire spread in informal settlements, including fire modeling, material behavior in fire and resilience- based engineering methods for fire safety.