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Meet the Team

Dr Alice Mah: Principal Investigator

alice.jpgDr Alice Mah is Associate Professor in Sociology at Warwick and the Principal Investigator of Toxic Expertise. She holds a PhD in Sociology from the London School of Economics. Her wide-ranging research interests in urban and environmental sociology are situated at the intersection of critical political economy, multi-sited ethnography, and science and technology studies. She is the author of Industrial Ruination, Community, and Place (2012), winner of the 2013 BSA Philip Abrams Memorial Prize, and Port Cities and Global Legacies (2014). She has conducted comparative, mixed-method sociological research in the UK, France, Belgium, China, Russia, the US, and Canada. Alice's research on Toxic Expertise builds on themes from her previous research on the toxic legacies of abandoned chemical industries in Niagara Falls and on petrochemical pollution in the Mississippi Chemical Corridor. Alice is conducting research across the project as a whole, focusing particularly on the global and participatory levels.

You can contact Alice via email on

Dr Thom Davies: Research Fellow

tom.jpgDr Thom Davies is a human geographer and photographer interested in issues related to environmental justice, marginalisation, exclusion and risk perception. Before joining Warwick, Thom completed his CEELBAS funded PhD at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham in 2015. His thesis research involved in-depth ethnographic research with communities who live around the Chernobyl Nuclear Exclusion Zone in north-central Ukraine, where he employed a number of visual and participatory research methods.

In 2014 Thom was awarded a scholarship from the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) to conduct comparative qualitative research in Fukushima with communities afflicted by the 2011 nuclear accident. During his JSPS scholarship he was based at the University of Tokyo, and interviewed evacuees, NGOs, clean-up workers and farmers who have refused to leave the Fukushima Exclusion Zone. More recently, Thom was awarded urgency funding from the ESRC to research the ‘new Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais, northern France. He worked with public health experts and NGOs to produce the first academic study of the informal migrant camp, looking at environmental health conditions in the camp including microbiological risks and air pollution.

Thom is now working as a post-doctoral Research Fellow on the ERC-funded project ‘Toxic Expertise’ in the Sociology Department at Warwick University. During this project he will be researching the contested expertise surrounding the petrochemical industry in Europe and the USA, with a special ethnographic focus on fenceline communities who live in ‘Cancer Alley’, Louisiana. He is interested in interviewing policy makers, NGOs, grass-roots activists, corporate representatives and communities impacted positively and negatively by the processes of the petrochemical industry.

You can contact Thom via email on

Dr Loretta Lou: Research Fellow

L Lou

DPhil Anthropology, University of Oxford MSc by Research, Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh B.A. Anthropology, University of Washington, Seattle

Dr. Loretta Lou is Research Fellow of the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick and a Postdoctoral Associate at Oxford’s Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA). Loretta’s research interests lie in the areas of the environment, health, science & technology studies (STS), social movements and social changes in Greater China, the U.K., and the U.S. After she received her DPhil in Anthropology from the University of Oxford, she went on to work as a Postdoctoral Research Assistant at the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies (SIAS) for the Forum on Health, Environment and Development (FORHEAD) before joining a 5-year ERC funded project titled Toxic Expertise: Environmental Justice and the Global Petrochemical Industry at the University of Warwick.

Loretta’s doctoral research was an ethnographic study of a new way of living called ‘green living’ in Hong Kong. She was interested in the implications of green living for self-nature relationship, social dynamics, ethics, political mobilizations, and the ways these domains are being shaped by Hong Kong’s social and political climate since its handover from British to Chinese sovereignty. Building on her previous research, in her postdoc Loretta will conduct mixed-method studies on environmental health and the petrochemical industry in China.

Prior to her academic career, Loretta worked as a public health researcher for the NHS, focusing on women’s experience of antenatal care in Scotland. She retains a strong interest in applied (medical and environmental) anthropology and is now preparing a major study on gynaecological health movements, technologies, and their implication for women’s wellbeing in the U.K. and the U.S.

A list of Loretta's publications can be found here.

You can contact Loretta via email on

Dr Thomas Verbeek: Research Fellow

picture_thomas_verbeek.jpgDr Thomas Verbeek obtained his PhD in Urban Planning at the Centre for Mobility and Spatial Planning at Ghent University (Belgium) in 2017. He also holds a MSc in Geography and in Urban Planning from Ghent University. His research interests include environmental health, urban governance and spatial justice. Within these fields he prefers to apply quantitative research methods to examine important policy issues.His dissertation, entitled “Living Cities: Reconnecting Environmental Health and Urban Planning”, aimed to move beyond the lock-in of public health and urban planning and explore new approaches to deal with environmental health concerns in planning practice. Building on complexity theory, an environmental justice framework was proposed to localize environmentally unhealthy situations, and a matrix of planning strategies was presented to address these situations. The empirical research framework consisted of interviews, spatial data analysis, documentary analysis and a residents’ survey. The empirical part focused on the problem of local air pollution and traffic noise in the city of Ghent, in close collaboration with the city administrations and a local citizen initiative. By combining quantitative with qualitative results, case-specific and general policy recommendations were formulated that can lead to a more central place for health in urban planning.

Thomas' role on Toxic Expertise is to apply quantitative research methods to analyse toxic pollution and its context at different spatial levels, with a critical view on data collection. Research methods will include GIS mapping, statistical analysis, and corporate network analysis. He will also contribute to the development of a web-based international public resource on 'toxic expertise'.

You can contact Thomas via email on

Dr Calvin Jephcote: Research Fellow

calvin_image.jpgDr Calvin Jephcote is a socio-environmental scientist with academic and consultancy expertise in the disciplines of environmental epidemiology, GIScience and aspects of air quality management. Calvin’s research specialisms relate to the identification, management and analysis of geocoded ‘big’ datasets (i.e. census, NHS patient records, panel surveys and emission inventories) for traditional statistical evaluation, conducted alongside advanced geostatistical practices ranging from cluster and boundary detection, to multi-level and locally weighted regression.

Calvin completed his EPSRC funded PhD at the University of Leeds in 2013, focusing his research on the ‘geostatistical modelling of health inequalities associated with exposure to road-transport emissions’. Through considering spatial variations in children’s respiratory health, Calvin’s doctoral research aimed to address the inadequacies of traditional temporal modelling practices in capturing Pearce et al’s (2010) ‘triple jeopardy’ of social, environment and health inequalities.

In addition, Calvin holds a MSc in Air Pollution Management & Control from the University of Birmingham. He has commercial project management experience through previous employment as an air quality consultant at Ricardo Energy & Environment.

In 2016 Calvin was employed as a Research Fellow by the University of Surrey, on a prestigious EU Horizon 2020 project investigating the role of youth migration in maximising opportunities for individuals, labour markets and regions across Europe. Research tasks included the: (a) management and cleaning of 30,000 panel survey questionnaires, (b) design of spatially inclusive quantitative research methods – survey weights, Bayesian models, ordinal regression, and (c) to lead the deliverable of scientific publications.

Calvin joins our team in January 2018.


JEPHCOTE C, & CHEN H. (2012). Environmental injustices of children's exposure to air pollution from road-transport within the model British multicultural city of Leicester: 2000-09. Science of the Total Environment. 414, pp.140-151

JEPHCOTE C, & CHEN H. (2013). Geospatial analysis of naturally occurring boundaries in road-transport emissions and children's respiratory health across a demographically diverse cityscape. Social Science & Medicine. 82, pp.87-99

JEPHCOTE C, ROPKINS K, & CHEN H. (2014). The effect of socio-environmental mechanisms on deteriorating respiratory health across urban communities during childhood. Applied Geography. 51C, pp.35-47

JEPHCOTE C, CHEN H, & ROPKINS K. (2016). Implementation of the Polluter Pays Principal (PPP) in local transport policy. Journal of Transport Geography. 55, pp.58-71

WEBB J, JEPHCOTE C, FRASER A, et al (2016). Do UK crops and grassland require greater inputs of Sulphur fertilizer in response to recent forecast reductions in Sulphur emissions and deposition? Soil Use and Management. 32, pp.3-16

JEPHCOTE C, & WILTSHIRE J. (201x). Testing the hypothesis that bioenergy cropping for Anaerobic Digestion (AD) is impacting land rental prices. Journal of Agricultural Economics. (Internal Review – Publication Embargo)

WILLIAMS A, JEPHOTE C, JANTA H, & LI G. (2017). The Migration Intentions of Young Adults in Europe: A Comparative, Multi-Level Analysis. Population, Space and Place. (In Review)

Dr Cynthia Xinhong Wang: Honorary Research Fellow

cynthia.jpgDr Cynthia Wang completed her PhD in Social Sciences (China Studies) at the Centre for East Asian studies, University of Turku, Finland. She also holds an MSc (International Human Rights Law) Åbo Akademi, Finland, and an LLB (Chinese Law) Tsinghua University, China. Her doctoral dissertation is entitled "Open Environmental Information Upon Disclosure Request in China: The Paradox of Legal Mobilization". In her dissertation, she took a realist view that law is part of politics and argued that Chinese citizens and environmental organizations have been actively engaged themselves in utilizing the new information disclosure laws to push government agencies to comply with the laws, thus constituting a legal mobilization and making social and political changes.At present, Cynthia was a post-doctoral Research Fellow on the ERC-funded project “Toxic Expertise” at the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick. Cynthia examined how people from different backgrounds, inter alia, petrochemical representatives, scientific and legal professionals, citizens and activists, think, talk, and act regarding the environmental impact of petrochemical plants, as well as environmental pollution and environmental justice in China. Her research interests include open government information, environmental law, environmental justice and human rights law and Cynthia continues to engage with Toxic Expertise as an Hononary Research Fellow.

Mrs India Holme: Administrator


India has worked in various project management/administration roles since 2009 and has been at the University of Warwick since 2011. India provides all the administrative support for the project. India completed her BA in Politics and Philosophy and MA in Global Politics and Law both at the University of Sheffield. Whilst not actively involved in any academic research, India's interested in some of the philosophical questions/arguments that are related to the existence of areas such as 'Cancer Alley'.India is also interested in public engagement and is keen to ensure that wherever possible she introduces research to the public in meaningful and interesting ways. She has recently been working on public facing events engaging all ages with the topics of climate change, air pollution and environmental justice.

You can contact India via email on