Dr John Stell


I studied Mathematics and later Computer Science at the University of Manchester. I worked at Keele University both in Mathematics and in Computer Science. I came to Leeds in 2001 as a Lecturer and have been Senior Lecturer since 2003. While working at Leeds I studied Fine Art part time at Leeds College of Art, graduating with a first class degree in 2010. I have used this interdisciplinary background to combine research in Computer Science with work on spatial concepts in the digital humanities.


  • Programme Director, Computer Science, SWJTU-Leeds Joint School

Research interests

My research interests lie in the area of qualitative spatial representation and reasoning.  Particular current concerns include models of spatial information at multiple levels of detail and discrete models of space. This involves the application to mathematical logic to the representation of spatial knowledge. I also work with in interdisciplinary collaborations to connect the use of spatial concepts in the digital humanities with approaches to space in computer science.

In logic I am working on a modal logic motivated by the need to handle graphs at different levels of detail in knowledge representation.

I am the co-investigator for an AHRC Research Network on Space and Narrative in the Digital HumanitiesThis project (2018-2019) is in collaboration with Ian Gregory at Lancaster University, and with David Bodenhamer at The Polis Center at IUPUI, Indianapolis. In the humanities spatial data is often fundamentally vague, uncertain, or metaphorical, but conventional Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are limited in their ability to repesent this type of data in ways that are useful for humanities scholars. The project will explore for the first time how qualitative spatial representation and other related methods can be used as novel ways of handling the kind of spatial data that is important in the humanities but which does not fit with existing GIS technology.

I have been awarded funding from the Cultural Institute at Leeds University for a small project (in 2018) to work with Leeds Museums and Galleries on the computer drawings by Darrell Viner in the collection of the Henry Moore Institute. The project will explore connections between different drawings through collaboration with the geospatial scientist, sound artist and composer Mike Worboys.


  • BSc (Mathematics) Manchester
  • BA (Fine Art) Leeds
  • MSc (Computer Science) Manchester
  • PhD (Computer Science) Manchester

Student education

My teaching has involved a wide variety of undergraduate Computer Science topics including Artificial Intelligence, Databases, Discrete Mathematics, and Logic Programming.

I am currently Programme Director for the Computer Science Programme at the SWJTU-Leeds Joint School in Chendu, China. I am also involved in teaching on this programme and have delivered modules to students at the Joint School in China.

Research groups and institutes

  • Artificial Intelligence

Postgraduate research opportunities

We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study.

Projects currently available: