Alan Lester's first degree was from the University of Cambridge and his PhD from the University of London. He has been at the University of Sussex since 2000, becoming Professor of Historical Geography in 2006 and the University's first Director of Interdisciplinary Research in 2013. He has held visiting lectureships at Rhodes University and the University of Fort Hare, an Erskine Fellowship at the University of Canterbury and an inaugural fellowship in humanities at La Trobe University
His role is as director of Interdisciplinary Research, Professor of Historical Geography, and co-director of the Colonial and Postcolonial Studies Network
He has have facilitated projects in collaboration with Kew Gardens, the British Library, the National History Museum, the Met Office and various humanitarian and global health-oriented NGOs. As director of Interdisciplinary Research he is now engaged in a wide range of such collaborations.
His is also international partner on the Australian Research Council-funded project, 'Minutes of Evidence', based at the University of Melbourne. Working with a number of state and Aboriginal organisations, this has seen a performance of the play Coranderrk: We Will Show the Country in a number of venues including the Sydney Opera House. The play is a verbatim re-enactment of a nineteenth century colonial commission of inquiry into an Aboriginal reserve and it lays at the heart of new teaching materials and approaches in Victoria.