Professor Petford is a former Royal Society university research fellow and fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge. Previously, he was pro vice-chancellor at Bournemouth University and, before that, professor of earth and planetary sciences at Kingston University. A geologist by training, with a DSc from the University of Liverpool, he has worked in industry and on academic and commercial research projects throughout the world. He has held visiting research appointments at the universities of Michigan and Vermont and Nasa, and is currently visiting professor at Macquarie University, Australia. He is a graduate of Harvard Business School.