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Senior Management Team

Professor Colin Campbell, Chief Executive

Professor Colin CampbellColin is Chief Executive of the James Hutton Institute and is responsible for leading the organisation and its staff in delivering the Corporate Plan. He has been in post since Feb 2016. Prior to this he was Interim CEO from September 2015 and before that was Director of Science Excellence responsible for the strategic development of the excellence of the institute's scientists, facilities and resources. He has 28 years of research experience in soil microbiology/soil science applied to agri-environment issues. His expertise lies in fundamental and applied studies on the effects of pollutants on soil microorganisms and soil health and in understanding how microbial diversity contributes to ecosystem functioning. Colin was also Director of the Institute’s Post-Graduate School which has over 120 registered students, registered at 30 different universities from around the world.



Professor Deb Roberts, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Science

Professor Deb RobertsDeb is Deputy Chief Executive and Executive Director of Science. She is a member of the SEFARI Directors Committee and is responsible for progressing the Institute’s impact and open science agenda. Deb is a Director of ClimateXChange and leads on Macaulay Development Trust funding opportunities. She oversees our Environmental and Biochemical Sciences (EBS), Information and Computational Sciences (ICS), and Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences (SEGS) departments, plus our research farms.

Deb has over 25 years of experience in rural economic analysis with particular research interests in agricultural and environmental policies, regional development and social wellbeing issues in rural areas. She has an Honorary Chair at the University of Aberdeen Business school and she is responsible for the Institute’s partnerships with the University of Aberdeen. Prior to her current role, Deb was leader of the SEGS department.


Alasdair Cox, Director of Operations

Alasdair CoxAs Director of Operations Alasdair is responsible for the delivery of the Institute’s Communications, Estates, Human Resources and IT functions, as well as the development of the Project Management Office and providing operational support to James Hutton Limited. 

He has over 20 years experience gained in the agricultural and food sectors where he managed multi-functional teams in a very competitive retail environment and latterly in a publicly funded research, education and consultancy organisation.



Professor Lesley Torrance, Director of Science

Professor Lesley TorranceLesley is Director of Science and leads the delivery of the RESAS Strategic Research Programme and Underpinning Capacity; she also leads on our partnerships with the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews. She oversees the Ecological Sciences (ES) and Cell and Molecular Sciences (CMS) departments.

Lesley’s research interests are in plant virology and more broadly in strengthening potato production systems in sub-Saharan Africa and research links with NWAFU China. She continues her research through her joint position as Professor of Biology at the University of St Andrews. Prior to her current role, Lesley was leader of the Institute's CMS group. She was President of the British Society for Plant Pathology (BSPP) in 2014.



Hugh Darby, Director of Finance and Company Secretary

Hugh DarbyHugh is Director of Finance and Company Secretary at the James Hutton Institute, having joined the Institute in October 2019. Hugh is responsible for Finance, Research Support and the Project Management Office.

Hugh’s background is across a range of disciplines from financial and management accounting to business transformation, with particular expertise in establishing and leading a strategically-aligned finance function; process reengineering; financial analysis and modelling; systems analysis, design and specification; change/project management; data interrogation and analysis; process, risk and controls review.

Hugh qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC) in 1995, having worked within the Business Assurance and Computer & Risk Assurance Services teams. He then worked at the University of Strathclyde leading the Financial Systems team for a number of years before spending a period in an internal audit role within British Energy, which was followed by a period in a controls assurance role within Scottish Power’s Energy Management division. Hugh then moved into legal services roles for nearly a decade, latterly as an Associate Director within the national law firm Irwin Mitchell, leading business transformation activity. In 2014, Hugh returned to the University of Strathclyde, where he headed up the Finance Directorate as Director of Finance, including a year as Acting CFO immediately before leaving to join the Institute in 2019.

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.