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Professor Rachel Mills

Professor Rachel Mills

  • Academics

Senior Vice President (Academic)

Professor of Ocean Chemistry.

Research subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Earth systems

Contact details


Rachel joined King’s in August 2022 as Senior Vice President (Academic) a new leadership role in the Principal’s senior team. She leads the academic activities across the College, linking together education and research ambitions to maximise impact and effectiveness of these efforts. She is responsible for shaping the academic vision and future plans for the College, while supporting external impact and partnerships. In particular, she has oversight of Faculty business planning and campus master planning and she sponsors a range of projects that aim to improve the experiences of the King’s community.

Rachel previously carried out a wide range of leadership roles in the sector, most recently as Provost at the University of Sussex. Prior to this, she worked at the University of Southampton for nearly 30 years, including over 15 years in leadership roles such as Executive Dean of the Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences and previously the Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Head of School of Ocean and Earth Science and Director of Graduate School of the National Oceanography Centre Southampton. As the Southampton Sustainability Champion, she led the co-creation and implementation of the new University strategy with the student and wider community. She was the Executive sponsor of the Technicians Commitment, a lead for the University-wide Career Development of Researchers Working Group which implemented the Concordat for early career researchers at Southampton, and has worked consistently to improve access to STEM subjects for minoratized groups. She is a strong advocate for the power of mentorship to change individual lives and transform organisations.

Research Interests and Education

After completing her PhD and postdoctoral work in Earth Sciences at Cambridge, Rachel joined Southampton in 1993. She is a deep-sea oceanographer who works on the chemistry of the seafloor and its impact on life in the sea; building interdisciplinary teams to further our understanding of key processes in the ocean system. She has led research expeditions using submersibles and remotely operated vehicles to remote and deep, unexplored parts of the ocean such as the Bransfield Strait off the Western Antarctic Peninsula, the deepest hydrothermal vents in the Cayman Trough in the Caribbean and a range of sites along the mid-Atlantic Ridge. She has changed the understanding of how mineral deposits form at the seafloor and how chemicals are dispersed across ocean basins and drive global biogeochemical processes. She has applied geochemical approaches to sediment samples in innovative ways to reconstruct past carbon fluxes around volcanic islands in the Southern Ocean and to understand the past operation of the Pacific Ocean.

She is a Visiting Professor at the University of Southampton and an Honorary Fellow of the Natural History Museum. She a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Royal Society of Biology. As past President of the Challenger Society for Marine Science (2016-2018) she was instrumental the conception of Challenger 150, the conference for the Society which celebrates the 150th Anniversary of the discipline of Oceanography in 2022.

She is passionate about education and ocean literacy in particular, providing cultural enrichment by supporting lifelong learning. She was the architect and lead educator for the FutureLearn-hosted online course ‘Exploring our Ocean’, attracting over 60k learners of all ages, from across the world. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Expertise and Public Engagement

Rachel regularly provides advice and direction for a range of international and UK organisations and high-profile programmes. For example, oral evidence she provided to the Cross-Party Environmental Audit Committee Sustainable Seas Inquiry influenced their conclusion that “the government should use its influence internationally to impose a moratorium on exploitation licences in [deep sea] environments.”

She was appointed by Cabinet in 2021 as a Non-Executive Director for the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science and is Chair of the Cefas Science Advisory Committee, providing leadership and challenge around the Cefas Science and Technology Strategy which in turn advises government on fisheries policy, sustainable oceans and their contribution to net zero ambitions for the UK and wider territories.

She has contributed widely to documentaries (BBC Earth Story, Channel 4 Deep Diving with the Russians), radio interviews (BBC World Service, Woman’s Hour, Today Programme, multiple local radio stations), written journalism, podcasts, live streams and other social media content. Her BBC Radio 4 Life Scientific in 2018 was highlighted by Pick of the Week for its ‘brilliantly clear communication’.

Rachel is a keen runner, gradually upping the distance covered and raising money for a range of charities and causes over the years through sponsorship.