The strategic vision for the Epistemic Insight Future of Knowledge Initiative was developed by Professor Berry Billingsley and colleagues in the LASAR Research Centre.

The vision and accompanying strategy were refined and extended through workshops and meetings in-person and online with potential collaborators,  invited guests and our Advisory Board.

The LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion) Research Centre

LASAR aims to help students (broadly conceived), parents/carers, educators, communicators and the wider public to engage with Big Questions that bridge science, religion and the wider humanities. We design and test resources, structures and activities that encourage interest in Big Questions and foster epistemic curiosity, creativity and critical thinking about the nature, application and communication of knowledge. LASAR has developed a research network consisting of a consortium of universities and educational institutions. We plan to continue to create a research community where research expertise and experience is developed and shared within the Centre, the faculty and wider academic community. Our partners help us to discover new contexts for our existing findings and new questions to explore.

The LASAR team

Project Lead Prof. Berry Billingsley

Berry Billingsley specialises in Science Education and leads the LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion) Research Centre and the Epistemic Insight Initiative based at Canterbury Christ Church University. Berry’s first career was with the BBC where she produced and presented television and radio programmes including BBC World Service’s ‘Science in Action’, BBC TV’s ‘Tomorrow’s World’ and BBC Education’s ‘Search out Science’.

Research Fellow/Research Coordinator – Sherralyn Simpson

Sherralyn Simpson – Research Fellow 

Sherry is an experienced FE lecturer and a registered Careers Development professional, who has been part of the LASAR team since 2019. She is currently studying for a Doctorate in Education at CCCU.  

Sherry has led the Essential experiences in Science and Investigating Big Questions (Covid-recovery) projects collaborating with primary school teachers to support development of pupils’ Epistemic insight, implemented through the Discovery Bags investigations. In addition, Sherry oversees the financial position of research activities, supporting business planning across the suite of LASAR research projects. 

Research Fellow – Dr. Keith Chappell

Keith has doctorates in microbiology and in theology and has spent much of his career teaching and researching biology. He has a broad interest in science and culture, and religion and society. His publications include books and articles in the fields of science and religion, religion and social justice, and conflict resolution. As a research fellow, Keith’s work focusses on data analysis and writing.

Research Fellow – Mina Cullimore

.Mina develops opportunities for knowledge exchange through co-creative research-engaged projects and activities involving primary and secondary schools with their wider communities.

Recent year-long projects include STFC funded ‘The Power of Light’ (with scientists at Diamond Light Source) and a BQiC EI project with leads of science and RE in secondary schools.  

Mina has extensive teaching and curriculum development experience in secondary schools through her leadership roles for RS, PRSHE, SMSC, Careers, Citizenship, teaching art, humanities and social sciences, and developing multidisciplinary and multicultural events for young people from KS2 to KS5.

Research Fellow/Research Coordinator – Dr. Sean Durbin

Sean Durbin received his PhD from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. His research expertise centres around the critical and social scientific study of religion, focusing especially on religion and politics, and the performative nature of religious discourse, publishing widely on these topics. From 2014 to 2019 he was editor of the journal Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception. He has held research and teaching positions at Macquarie University, The University of Newcastle, and Australian Catholic University. As a LASAR research fellow, Sean is working on data analysis related to research conducted on perceptions of science and religion in schools, and writing on how critical methods in the academic study of religion can help develop epistemic insight.

Research Fellow/Project Manager – Dr. Aga Gordon

Aga has a PhD in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, an MBA (Open) and is a fully qualified chemistry specialist teacher. She worked as an Associate Professor in Quantum Chemistry at the University of Wroclaw for twelve years and has published over 40 peer reviewed research papers in international journals. In her Project Manager role Aga oversees the Epistemic Insight Initiative strands and associated projects. As a Research Fellow she leads the consortium of eight collaborating HE Institutions, supporting ITE tutors in embedding epistemic insight into their teacher education programmes.

Research Fellow – Laura Hackett

Laura is a qualified Early Years Teacher and has been in education for 10 years, with experience of primary and secondary schools as a TA, Teacher and Researcher. Laura has an MA in Early Years Education and currently heads up the Investigating Big Questions (IBQ) project.

Research Fellow – Dr. Lee Hazeldine

My research interests include cross-curricular learning, multimodal and digital learning, affect theory and continental philosophy.  My teaching responsibilities include digital learning, educational research and pedagogic theory and practice.

I have worked in a variety of teaching and training roles throughout the UK. My responsibilities have included learning consultancy, digital pedagogy and art and design education. I have a PhD in Philosophy, a MA in Cultural Representation and a PGCert in Social Science Research Methods

Research Fellow – Finley Lawson

Finley has over 10 years experience in primary and secondary schools as an educational support worker and Religious Studies specialist.  Finley is the lead fellow for the schools’ and outreach work and is interested in the influence of Epistemic Insight on student aspiration and widening participation on HE. With the Schools and College Engagement Team he designed, and researches the impact of, the Inspiring Minds Programme. He also leads the integration of Epistemic Insight into Key Stage 3 curricula (age 11-14) through the Permeable Walls Project. He has a Research Masters in Philosophy from the University of London and is undertaking a part-time PhD in Theology and Science at CCCU.

Research Fellow – Dr. Mehdi Nassaji

Mehdi’s BSc was in Control Engineering. He then completed two MA degrees in Education and in Philosophy of Science. His PhD was on the idea of Plurality of Truth, arguing that there can be a number of different true claims, including religious truths that are not necessarily reducible or translatable to science. Mehdi’s work as Research Fellow focuses on data analysis, publication writing and workshop development

Research Fellow/ Research Coordinator – Dr. Dani Shalet

Dani graduated from the University of Kent in 2015 with a PhD in Science and Religion. She lectured in theology and religious studies at the University of Kent for over 7 years and is currently a Lecturer in education at Canterbury Christ Church University. Dani co-leads the New Generation Teachers project, an online tool that encourages young people to pursue a career in teaching.

Research Fellow/Research Coordinator – Aryn Litchfield

Aryn holds a first-class BA in Philosophy, Religion, and Ethics from CCCU and a MA distinction in Philosophy from the University of Kent.  Aryn’s research interests include: Virtue epistemology, Philosophy of science, Philosophy of religion, and Artificial intelligence. Aryn is currently taking the lead on work relating to search engines and artificial intelligence.

Dr. Caroline Thomas

Caroline Thomas is a Senior Lecturer in Primary Education and a former headteacher of two primary schools. Her research seeks to explore primary trainees’ knowledge and understanding of epistemic insight. This includes their understanding of the nature of science in the real world and in multidisciplinary arenas. A particular focus is on trainee teachers’ understanding of the importance and limitations of observation in science.

Research Fellow – Lee Harris

Lee holds a first-class BSc in Computer Science from the University of Kent, and he is in the process of submitting his PhD thesis titled ‘Transparent AI’. He has worked as an assistant lecturer, a seminar supervisor, in various research assistant capacities, as an escape room game developer, and as a mobile developer intern. Lee has a passion for AI transparency, which is evident through his research. The EI initiative is particularly appealing as he feels that clear logic and reasoning is far more valuable than abstract data.

Dr Nqobile Nkala

Dr Nqobile Nkala holds an EdD from the Open University (Milton Keynes) and is currently a senior lecturer (science education) at Canterbury Christ Church University. His research interests include science pedagogy, critical pedagogy, decoloniality and identity. His interests in this project are mainly on the implications of AI, machine and cross disciplinary learning on ‘How Science Works’, and the attendant consequences for science teacher and secondary school science education.



This document contains profiles of tutors at Canterbury Christ Church University who are teaching epistemic insight through their modules and workshops