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Professor David Sanderson, an international disaster risk reduction expert has been appointed the inaugural Judith Neilson Chair in Architecture at UNSW.

Established earlier this year with a $10 million endowment from philanthropist and White Rabbit Gallery founder Judith Neilson, the Chair aims to lead research and education to support disadvantaged communities displaced by natural disasters, geo-political conflicts, socio-economic exclusion and environmental factors.

Dean of UNSW Built Environment Professor Alec Tzannes said Professor Sanderson will help position UNSW as a centre of excellence in Australia and internationally for architecture focused on social purpose with his expertise and academic leadership. Professor Sanderson will lead the new specialisation in UNSW’s Master of Architecture program, Architecture and Social Agency.

Professor Tzannes underlined the commitment of the Judith Neilson Chair and UNSW Built Environment to improving people’s lives through knowledge exchange and engagement as well as by delivering graduates with a passion to make a positive difference in the world through their careers as architects, planners, construction managers and designers.

Professor Sanderson is currently based at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology where he specialises in urban disaster resilience and humanitarian aid. Having trained in architecture at De Montforte University and Oxford Brookes University, he has worked with international aid agencies in development and disaster risk reduction for the past 20 years including with CARE International UK as Head of Policy and as Regional Manager for Southern and West Africa. He has also worked at the Oxford Centre for Disaster Studies and at Oxford Brookes University as Director of the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice. He was a Visiting Professor at Harvard University from 2013 to 2014.

Holding a PhD in urban disasters and livelihoods, Professor Sanderson is a Visiting Professor at Université Paris-Est Créteil in Paris. He teaches annual courses at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, EOI Business School, Madrid, Oxford Brookes University, Université Paris-Est Créteil and Universita della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano. He is also an Editor of PLoS One: Disasters and Jamba Journal.

Professor Sanderson will take up his position in February 2016.