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Trustees and Chair of the Board

Fiona Cruickshank OBE, Chair of the Board

Angel investor and founder of pharmaceutical manufacturing businesses
"As a mum coming to Life, my kids have had birthday parties here, been ice skating, attended school workshops and been wowed by countless exhibitions. In a business capacity, I’ve come to Life to attend and host meetings; to network at special events, such as a live broadcast of Radio 4's Any Questions?; and I've helped to train scientists who’ve gone on to work at Life. As Chair, it is an enormous privilege to help steer Life for the years ahead."

Professor Joris Veltman

Dean of Biosciences Institute at Newcastle University
“I look forward to contributing my skills and working with Life to inspire children and young adults to choose a career in STEM.”

Professor Jane Robinson

Pro-Vice-Chancellor - Engagement and Place at Newcastle University

“Life creatively combines world-leading science with education in a way that is fun and relevant for people of all ages and background. It shows what we can achieve when we work together.”

Lucy Winskell OBE DL

​Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Employability and Partnerships) at Northumbria University and  chair of the north east local enterprise partnership
​“Life is a fabulous asset for the region and, speaking as a non-scientist, I appreciate that its exhibitions and events make me look at the world differently.”

Professor Roy Sandbach OBE

President of the Royal Society of Chemistry Industry Council
“Science is the story of our world and our Universe; Life tells us that story brilliantly, every day.”

Councillor Irim Ali

Legal assistant, elected councillor for the Wingrove Ward in Newcastle and Cabinet Minister for Community Services and Public Engagement
"As a local councillor, I want to contribute to the work and development of Life and help promote the centre within the local community. I am thrilled to serve on a Board that has a variety of skills and experience to offer."

Louise Hunter MBE

Director of Corporate Affairs at Northumbrian Water
"We’re fortunate to have, in Life, a place where children and adults can learn about the science that impacts all of our lives and which challenges us to question the world around us."

Mark Ryan

Director of Product at Shopify
"Working in the tech industry, and coming from a science background, I know the seeds of a career in STEM are planted in the early years and grown throughout a lifetime; Life is at the heart of that journey for so many people in the North East."

John Downes

North East Area Director and Head of Youth at StreetGames
“I know how engaging and exciting the science centre is for children and young people. I hope to bring to the team my experience of developing programmes and initiatives to help it to become even more accessible to everyone in the local community."

Tracey Stonehouse

Director of Finance, Procurement and Compliance at CPI
“Life provides interesting and engaging opportunities for children and adults to explore the world of science in a fun and interactive manner. I believe the science centre has an important role to play in inspiring our scientists of the future.”

Honorary Presidents

Alastair Balls CB DL

Honorary President
Alastair Balls was a major driving force behind the founding of Life and served as its Chief Executive for the organisation's first seven years, and then as Chair for 13 years, stepping down in June 2020.

Prior to this, Alastair was Chief Executive of the Tyne and Wear Development Corporation following a career in Whitehall, where, among his many appointments, he served as Senior Economic Advisor to HM Treasury and Undersecretary at the UK’s Department of Environment.

The Right Honourable Viscount Ridley

Honorary President
Matt Ridley is a distinguished author and science journalist. His books, including The Rational Optimist and The Evolution of Everything, have sold over a million copies, been translated into 31 languages and won several awards. His TED talk When Ideas Have Sex has been viewed more than two million times. He writes a weekly column in The Times (London) and writes regularly for the Wall Street Journal.

Professor Ian Fells CBE

Honorary Vice-President
Professor Fells is Emeritus Professor of Energy Conversion at Newcastle University and former Chairman of New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) in Blyth, UK. He has published over 200 papers on a varied range of topics including rocket combustion and energy economics.

Senior Management Team

Linda Conlon MBE DL

Chief Executive
Linda is one of the original team who helped transform a once derelict area of Newcastle into the vibrant science village of Life. She’s now one of the most respected figures in the international  science centre community, travelling all over the world to give lectures and advise other bodies on setting up science centres. She has contributed to many boards and external organisations, one of the most significant being the Association of Science and Technology Centres (ASTC) – the US-based professional body that represents more than 600 science centres from over 50 countries. In 2016, Linda was awarded an MBE for her outstanding service to science and science education in North East England.

Claire Adams

Deputy Chief Executive & Chief Operating Officer
With a legal career in the public and private sector – latterly specialising in commercial land matters and regeneration – Claire is the director responsible for the Centre’s diverse property portfolio, its income generation and its upkeep (no mean task!) and for keeping our tenants happy.  Property provides vital income for the Centre, as it receives no funding from local or central government – we follow the motto ‘there’s no mission without the margin’.  Claire’s responsibilities also include corporate governance matters and human resources.  In effect, Claire is the person who does the regulatory stuff as well as the hiring and (hopefully not very often) the firing, too.

Natalie Daring

Science Engagement Director
Natalie is responsible for leading the Public Engagement and Education teams, creating exciting, engaging and inspiring science experiences for our visitors and school groups. She is passionate about nurturing brilliant communicators and the power of science engagement to enable people to unlock their potential. Natalie also oversees Life’s community work, with partners including the North East Autism Society, West End Schools' Trust and African Community Action North East. Natalie has more than 15 years' experience of working in science museums, festivals and cultural venues across the UK – a career that started right here at Life as a recent biomedical science graduate of Newcastle University!

Julia Hankin

Marketing and Communications Director
Whether it's marketing dinosaurs, exhibitions of dead bodies or robots, or organising visits by astronauts, Nobel Prize-winning scientists or prime ministers, Julia has the T-shirt(s).  She's responsible for all areas of marketing and communications for Life including the Science Centre, the wider public engagement and schools programmes, plus the promotion of commercial activities including Life Meetings and Events. She’s also tasked with raising awareness of the wider on-site activities and, given the range and breadth of activities, that’s a challenge. Julia has extensive marketing experience in education, industry and tourism and spent 14 years with the BBC as a radio presenter.

Kate Little

Finance Director
Kate looks after all aspects of the financial health of the Trust and its subsidiary commercial company. From overseeing the day-to-day finances, to planning investment strategy, meeting statutory reporting and filing obligations, ensuring adequate insurance cover, tax planning and cash flow – there’s not much that Kate can’t achieve when armed with a calculator and a spreadsheet! Kate spent many years in practice (as a partner in two local practices, Rainbow Gillespie and Haines Watts North East) before moving into the not-for-profit sector in 2010. Kate has a degree in biotechnology, making her career move to Life a "coming-full-circle" story.

Did you know that Life is an educational charity? Find out more about our charitable mission.

Learn more

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