Published on 19/07/2023
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Professor Maia Angelova, Professor Abdul Hamid Sadka and Professor Manolya Kavakli
  • Professor Abdul Hamid Sadka has been appointed as Institute Director and Professor of Visual Media Technologies
  • Professor Maia Angelova has been appointed as Programme Lead and Professor of Artificial Intelligence in Health 
  • Professor Manolya Kavakli has been appointed as Programme Lead and Professor of Gamification and Simulation Technology.

Aston University has appointed three internationally renowned research professors to lead the new Aston Digital Futures Institute (ADFI).

The establishment of the Institute, which will focus on digital innovation and transformation, was first announced by Professor Aleks Subic, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Aston University, in February 2023. 

Professor Abdul Hamid Sadka has been appointed as Professor of Visual Media Technologies and Director of the Institute to provide academic, managerial and strategic leadership. 

Professor Sadka is a chartered computer and communications engineer with 26 years of experience in senior academic leadership and pioneering contributions to the area of AI-enabled visual media technologies. His career is underlined by a commitment to business engagement, knowledge transfer and high impact output. 

He has been the Director of the Institute of Digital Futures at Brunel University London (2020 to 23) where he also served as the Founding Director of Brunel Digital Science & Technology Hub (2018 to 20), Director of the Centre for Media Communications Research (2012 to 18) and Head of Electronic & Computer Engineering (2006 to 12), then also encompassing the ‘Digital Media’ division at Brunel.

He has attracted over £15m worth of research grants and contracts as principal investigator and supervised more than 50 research assistants and PhD students to successful conclusion. He has filed patents and published widely including three books and a seminal textbook, titled “Compressed Video Communications”, published by Wiley and recommended by numerous universities and research centres worldwide.

Professor Sadka said: 

“I am honoured to be joining the Aston family. The University has a visionary senior leadership with a particular stake in business enterprise and commercialisation as well as impact and global outreach. This is happening at the time when the University is going through an exciting phase of delivering on a very ambitious strategic plan 2030 in which ‘digital enterprise’ is a key strategic aim. 

“ADFI will play a key role in shaping up Aston University’s interdisciplinary research and innovation portfolio with REF2028 in perspective, and I am absolutely delighted to be at the helm of the Institute established to achieve that.”

He will be joined by Professor Maia Angelova who has been appointed as Programme Lead and Professor of Artificial Intelligence in Health and Professor Manolya Kavakli as Programme Lead and Professor of Gamification and Simulation Technology.

Professor Angelova is a data scientist and applied mathematician with significant contributions to the area of AI in health. She is currently Professor of Data Analytics and Machine Learning and Director of Data Analytics Research Laboratory at the School of Information Technology at Deakin University, Australia. She was one of the founding directors of the Data to Intelligence Research Centre. 

She worked in the UK until 2016, where she was a Professor of Mathematical Physics at the Department of Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering at Northumbria University at Newcastle upon Tyne from 2004 to 2016 and led Mathematical Modelling and Intelligent Modelling Labs. She worked in Oxford University from 1991 to 1996 as a college lecturer in physics at Somerville College and a member of the Theoretical Physics Sub-Department. 

Professor Angelova has supervised more than 30 postdoctoral research fellows and PhD students to timely completion. She has significant experience in leading large and complex research projects as Principal Investigator.  
She is a Fellow of The Institute of Physics, member of the Council of Complex Systems Society, member of The London Mathematical Society, The Australian Mathematical Society, Society of Mathematical Biology and the European Women in Mathematics.

Professor Maia Angelova said: 

“I am delighted and honoured to be joining Aston University and its visionary leadership team. The new Aston Digital Futures Institute is an exciting new development based on collaborative and multidisciplinary research with a huge potential to build the relationships with industries at a new level. 

“By using artificial intelligence (AI) to advance healthcare focused on the individual needs, we will be serving our community better. Through applying new AI technologies and training highly skilled researchers we will be aiming to improve the effectiveness of personalised diagnosis and treatment for better health outcomes.”

Professor Manolya Kavakli is currently an Honorary Professor at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, where she served as the Founding Director of the Virtual Reality Lab at the Simulation Hub between 2005 and 2020 and the Director of Postgraduate Programmes, Department of Computing, between 2014 and 2018. She established AIE Institute between 2019 and 2023 as the founding Academic Director and designed a Bachelor of Game Development degree with three majors: Game Art, Game Design and Game Programming.

Until 1999 she worked as an Associate Professor at Faculty of Architecture, Istanbul Technical University. In 2000, she started lecturing in IT at the School of Information Technology, Charles Sturt University and became the Acting Course Coordinator of the Bachelor of Computer Science (Games Technology) degree which was the first of its kind in Australia. She received three Research Professorships in France from ENSAM (2013 to 2014) and AIX Marseille (2018). 

She is the founding member of VISOR (Virtual and Interactive Simulations of Reality Research Group), and CEPET (Research Centre for Elite Performance, Expertise and Training).

Professor Manolya Kavakli said: 

“I am extremely proud of joining Aston University and its progressive senior management team as a chair. Establishment of the Digital Futures Institute is a win for Birmingham. Postgraduate students and research fellows we train in these specific domains will not only benefit from transitioning to the local industry, but also support the industry growth with their highly specialised skill sets. It is expected that the Institute will significantly enhance Aston University’s entrepreneurial footprint in the region through strong collaboration with the industry.”

Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Aston University, Professor Aleks Subic, said:

“I am delighted to announce the appointments of Professor Abdul Hamid Sadka, Professor Maia Angelova and Professor Manolya Kavakli as the foundational leadership team that will take our new Aston Digital Futures Institute into the future.

“All internationally renowned senior research professors in their own right, together they will ensure that Aston Digital Futures Institute works at the frontiers of artificial intelligence, data science and digitalisation, driving the development of the global digital economy and digital society, helping the UK to realise new value through world leading research and innovation.

“This represents a long-term commitment by Aston University to the digital research and innovation agenda, focused on the development of a digital powerhouse in the Birmingham Innovation Quarter. It is aligned with the research priorities of the University and is one of the key enablers of our new 2030 strategy.”

Professor Sadka and his team will be joining Aston University from September 2023 and the Institute will be formally launched later in the year.

Notes to Editors

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a university since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiary groups – students, business and the professions, and the West Midlands region and wider society. Located in Birmingham at the heart of a vibrant city, the campus houses all the University’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Aleks Subic is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

In 2022 Aston University was ranked in the top 25 of the Guardian University Guide, based on measures including entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality and graduate prospects. The Aston Business School MBA programme was ranked in the top 100 in the world in the Economist MBA 2021 ranking.

For media inquiries in relation to this release, contact Sue Smith, head of press and communications, on (+44)7816 788663 or

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