Sharon Cook


  • Academic Integrity Lead
  • Mental Health First Aider

'Understanding the user in real world design applications' is the fundamental underpinning to Sharon's research and is based on a first degree in Ergonomics and Business Administration, naturally complemented by a Master’s degree in Industrial Design (Engineering).

Working for the Safety and Reliability Directorate of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, Sharon explored the role of cognitive ergonomics when benchmarking the quantification of human error within the nuclear industry. From there she moved to Leyland DAF to explore the contribution of physical ergonomics to the design of trucks and minibuses.

Sharon then joined Loughborough University’s Institute for Consumer Ergonomics as a consultant in transport ergonomics, progressing to a Research Fellow and latterly, Senior Lecturer. In this time, she has made significant international contributions in research, innovation and teaching (refer to relevant tabs).

She Is a Chartered Ergonomist and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors and also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.  She has served on the International Standards Organisation (ISO) – Automotive User Interest Group; Society of Automotive Engineers  (SAE)Human Factors Committee and ANEC - The European consumer voice in standardisation – Accessibility working Group. She is also a reviewer for several journals.


‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors 2023
'Research-informed Teaching Award’ Loughborough University 2022
‘Annual Book Award’ Interior Design Educators Council 2018
‘Presidents Award’ Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors 2017
‘H&S - Safety in Construction Medal’ Institution of Civil Engineers 2016
‘Ergonomics Design Award’ Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors 2013
‘Queens Anniversary Prize’ Royal Anniversary Trust 2007

Publications and funding

To date, Sharon has produced over 100 publications comprising academic papers and government/industry reports.  These have arisen from research funding totalling in the order of £3 million obtained from EU research programmes, UK Research Councils, UK Government departments and industry. The quality of Sharon’s outputs is evidenced through:

  • ‘H&S - Safety in Construction Medal’ by the Institution of Civil Engineers for outstanding civil engineering achievements and contribution to the profession and the Institution. This is a significant achievement given this is recognition of her work by a discipline outside of her own.
  • ‘Annual Book Award’ Interior Design Educators Council for excellence in addressing issues of the discipline of interior design including practice, research, and education.
  • Impact Case studies at both REF2021 (contributor) and REF2014 (submitter).

International impact

Substantial international impact has arisen from research for which she acted as Principal or Co-Investigator:

  • An amendment to ECE Regulation 104: Retro-reflective markings for heavy and long vehicles and their trailers. The reach of this research is evidenced by the obligatory or optional adoption of the regulation in 24 EU member states as well as Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Russian Federation and Switzerland.   
  • A revision to ECE Regulation 46: Approval of devices for indirect vision and of motor vehicles. The reach of this research is evidenced by the requirement for all new HGVs sold in Europe from 2015 to meet this new standard.
  • The development of the UK’s first national police vehicle livery recognised for their ergonomic merit through the receipt of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors ‘Ergonomics Design Award’. This research is also the subject of a Statutory Instrument concerning an Explanatory Memorandum to the Road Vehicle Lighting and Goods Vehicle Regulations 2009 and the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 2009.The markings have been applied to more than 95% of police vehicles, equating to over 25,000 vehicles and have been additionally adopted by other emergency service vehicles. Internationally, the markings or variants of them, have impacted thirteen countries covering the US, Europe and Australasia.

International pedagogic research

Sharon has been Co-Investigator/acting Principal Investigator on two international pedagogic research projects.

  • ‘DEVICE – DEsign for Vulnerable generations: Children and Elderly’ was funded by the European ERASMUS: Lifelong Learning Programme and undertaken in collaboration with partners from Sweden, Italy and Australia.  Its aim was to increase the adoption of Inclusive Design practice through the development of a teaching programme as a mechanism to transfer knowledge from the roots of the discipline in Northern Europe, to Southern Europe.
  •  ‘SIDe - Sustaining Inclusive Design Collaboration through Co-Design Platforms was funded through the UK Research and Innovation Newton Fund in collaboration with Mimar Sinan University. Its aim was to develop an educational framework to embed an Inclusive Design approach into community-based, social innovation projects.

Innovative teaching tool development

Sharon’s innovative empathic-modelling wearable simulations of ill-health conditions, which have been developed and used to transfer learning within industry, have been transposed into her own and her colleagues academic teaching. Beyond Loughborough University, her simulations have been used within the University of Guadalajara, to support their Ergonomics Masters programme which is the only Ergonomics Masters programme in Mexico and only full time programme in Ergonomics in Latin America.  They have also supported a colleague’s teaching visit to the City Design School of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, providing students with an empathic understanding of the daily lives of others with more challenged capabilities.

Further impact

The ‘Ford Third Age’ simulation developed by Sharon has contributed to a number of teaching and other resources:

  • Universal Design Handbook, promoted as the one-stop reference for Universal Design standards and aimed at students, advocates, policy makers, and design practitioners.
  • Subject of a case study by the Centre of Universal Design at North Carolina State University.
  • ‘Ergonomics in the vehicle design process’ - an industry text aimed at professionals in automotive product development teams.
  • ‘Design process at the Ford Motor Company - an education resource developed by the Ford Motor Company Ltd and the Design Museum Education Department, aimed at GCSE and A-level students.
  • Products of our Time, a publication viewing the culture of the years immediately prior to the millennium through the lens of the products of prominence at the time.

Teaching roles and awards

Sharon is a key member of her School’s Academic Leadership team in her role of Academic Integrity Lead. Her teaching quality is evidenced through Loughborough University’s Research-informed Teaching Award for ‘sustained and outstanding contribution to the promotion of research-informed teaching that has a direct impact on the student learning experience’ and also through her Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy.  She is currently working towards obtaining Senior Fellowship as well as achieving National Teaching Fellowship status.

Teaching levels and contributions

Sharon has taught at QCF Levels 5-8, contributing across a range of university departments from Art to Engineering. She also had responsibility for providing a week block module to industry in support of the University’s partnership in providing a Technical Accreditation scheme.  She has contributed to the development of degree programmes and leads her own/contributes to colleagues’ modules.

Innovative Impact

Sharon’s specialism is in the highly innovative area of the design and development of empathic-modelling tools in the form of wearable simulations of ill-health conditions. Their aim is to enable those without a given ill-health condition to understand some of its symptoms and impacts to daily living by enabling the wearer to experience aspects of it directly for themselves. The simulations developed to date include:

The Ford Third Age suit

A whole-body simulation of ageing commissioned by the Ford Motor Company whose use is now embedded in their design process and applied across Europe and the U.  Their aim is to encourage empathy by Ford’s young designers with the older driver population and resultant raised awareness from its use has provided insights into vehicle design improvements such as: raised driver seating position assisting accessing the car; greater door opening radius; improved headroom and additional grabbing points for manoeuvrability.  The simulation also guided Boeing in the design of their Dreamliner aircraft highlighting the benefit of: wider aisles; more accessible overhead bins; clearer signage; better lighting; improved colour schemes incorporating more contrast; increased ease-of-use of controls and improved toilet facilities.

‘The Third Age simulation ‘lets engineers slip into another generation and feel for themselves what changes the body goes through that impact how a driver relates to a vehicle’

Fred Lupton, North American Program Ergonomics Supervisor.

The Osteoarthritis suit

A whole-body simulation commissioned by NAPP Pharmaceuticals which was then also commercially sold to Stannah Stairlifts for the purpose of generating empathy with their client-base. It has been successfully used worldwide amongst their engineering teams to improve product design as well as their customer-facing sales teams for improved service delivery. Beyond this, the simulation has also supported the: health, finance, architecture, and consumer products sectors.

‘The arthritis suit has helped people at Stannah better empathise with our customers who suffer from arthritis... It is through innovative techniques like this that we can ensure our products and staff continue to help our customers retain their independence in and outside of the home. Indeed, the Osteoarthritis Suit is already having a very positive impact on how Stannah designs its products and empathises with the needs of its customers’

Nick Stannah, Product Marketing Director.

The Occupational Health simulations

A suite of five simulations of occupational health (OH) conditions prevalent within the construction industry which were developed under an adventure programme funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The simulations aim was to support experiential learning amongst construction apprentices with the intention of prompting greater OH engagement. Validation through PhD research undertaken with the National Construction College, the UK largest construction training provider, found that the simulations were: 1) successful in developing apprentices understanding of OH illnesses, 2) effective in changing attitudes regarding OH prioritisation and practices and 3) perceived as enjoyable, engaging and easier to understand. Following this validation, the simulations were then used under licence, by Park Health, within the Thames Tideway (London’s Super Sewer) project which is the largest water infrastructure project ever undertaken in the U.K.  

“These simulators provide a much more engaging, impactful and memorable training experience by providing insight into the look and feel of some common health issues affecting our workers”.

Park Health.

Public Engagement

Broadcast media

  • BBC Horizon programme with a working title of ‘Staying young’ commissioned by BBC Science - My contribution was to help educate viewers in how challenging ageing can be by applying the Third Age simulation to the presenter.
  • BBC Breakfast – A presenter wore the Osteoarthritis simulation to raise awareness amongst the wider public of the prevalence, symptoms, impacts and treatments for the condition.
  • Sky News – On World Arthritis Day, a reporter donned the Osteoarthritis simulation to improve understanding and change approaches in the future.
  • The Ford Motor Company Ltd - Uses the Third Age simulation for public engagement to demonstrate how significant they consider empathy within their design process is to producing customer-focussed cars.


  • Design Museum, London - The Third Age simulation and the Osteoarthritis simulation were exhibited within ‘Ergonomics:  Real Design’ to celebrate the 60th anniversary of UK ergonomics.
  • Tuille House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle – This also formed part of the 60th anniversary celebrations where it was reported that ‘Many of our visitors felt that such suits should be in wider circulation, enabling young people to understand and experience the debilitating effects.’
  • Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow – Purchased the Third Age simulation and displayed it within their ‘Looking at Design’ gallery.


  • London Design Festival 2017 – An annual event promoting London as a world design capital. Sharon’s Battenburg ambulance livery was one of around 200 exhibits curated from examples spanning from the 16th to 20th century demonstrating the role of graphic design in healthcare messaging.
  • Cambridge Science Festival – This was the UK’s largest free science festival promoting engagement and understanding where the Third Age simulation was used to promote public awareness and empathy.
  • Innovation in Healthcare at NHS Innovation Live – The Third Age simulation was used to demonstrate the challenge of an ageing population to healthcare.

Sharon’s research interests lie in the area of Ergonomics/Human Factors with particular interest in how design impacts challenged populations.

She has supervised six PhD students to completion – half have been international students including one co-supervision with Aarhus University, Denmark.

  • The application and development of inclusive service design in the context of a bus service.
  • Accessibility through User-Centred and Inclusive Design Methods.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of current training methods in enhancing the occupational health of younger construction workers.
  • Exploring the development and application of creative participatory methods to co-design products for people living with dementia.
  • Understanding how a blind or partially sighted runner runs around a 400m running track to improve independent running.
  • Development of an Activity-based Service Design Model for improving Older Travellers’ Inclusion in Future Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS).

She is currently supervising a further three students.

  • An Exploration of Elderly Patients and Their Carers Experiences of Hospital Care.
  • Developing a conflict model to explore Mobility Scooter-related conflict.
  • Understanding the enablers that influence retired baby boomer willingness to engage in digital healthcare technology in their independent life.

Please contact Sharon if you would like to discuss PhD opportunities relating to: Inclusive Design, Empathy in Design, Dementia, Ageing and Disability, Diversity and disadvantage.