Dr Briony Thomas
- Position: Associate Professor in Design Science
- Areas of expertise: Arts and science; participatory design; design theory; cultural product innovation; mathematics and art; arts integrated education; maker-centred learning; STEAM (arts in STEM); human-centred science
- Email: B.G.Thomas@leeds.ac.uk
- Phone: +44(0)113 343 9694
- Location: 4.47 School of Mechanical Engineering
- Website: Website | Instagram | Twitter | LinkedIn | Googlescholar | Researchgate | ORCID
I have a joint appointment between the School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Design. My cross-faculty role reflects where my work is positioned, as I lead a portfolio of design research at the intersection of the arts, science, and society.
I joined the University in 2004, initially within the School of Design (2004-2014) and have undertaken a range of roles during my time at the Leeds. I was seconded to the School of Mechanical Engineering (2015-2018) to lead the establishment of cross-disciplinary initiatives in shape-based design and manufacture, which led to my joint role between the departments (2019-present). I am a practising designer-maker; prototyping and making form an integral part of my research process and I regularly exhibiting work internationally. I have received funding from a range of sources including the UK Research and Innovation, the British Council, and charitable foundations.
I am passionate about diversity and inclusion, and the transformative power of creative education. With over two decades experience of professional design practice my research embraces transdisciplinary approaches, community-based design, and creative engagement with stakeholders. I am a University Public Engagement Champion specialising in collaborative arts-science initiatives with schools and communities. Many of these projects have focused on integrating arts across the curriculum – both inside and outside the classroom – and making science accessible. This work has contributed to national initiatives such as the NCETM mathematics outside the classroom campaign. My commitment to outreach and community engagement has seen me deliver over 100 workshops at science festivals, summer schools, and teacher training events across the UK and Europe, alongside curating and exhibiting at over 30 exhibitions that engage the public with research.
My mixed ethic heritage and lived experience within the academy has seen me step into several leadership roles to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) within the past decade. Within my current EDI role in Mechanical Engineering, I am leading research culture action planning and initiatives within the school, supported by Research England funding.
Outside my university role, I hold a voluntary position as Chair of Leeds Cultural Education Partnership (LeedsCEP), where I advocate and lead the development of sustainable and strategic approaches to embedding cultural and creative learning for children and young people across Leeds. This draws together my passions for creative education and EDI in supporting access to meaningful cultural experiences for all young people in the city.
If you would like to learn more about me, my background, and what drives me, you can read about this in this Yorkshire Post article and the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences ‘Footsteps’ showcase.
- Chair, Leeds Cultural Education Partnership (LeedsCEP)
- Deputy Director, Institute of Design, Robotics and Optimisation (iDRO)
- Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Lead (EDI), School of Mechanical Engineering
My research is positioned at the intersection of art, science, and society. I take a transdisciplinary approach, collaborating with different disciplines, practitioners, and communities throughout the research cycle through developing, doing, and disseminating research in these partnerships.
My current funded research projects:
- OncoEng (Oncological Engineering), public and patient involvement and engagement (PPIE) lead. Transformational and systems engineering approach to metastatic bone disease in the spine. Supported by an EPSRC programme grant (2022-2027).
- Mapping Cultural Engagement with Schools in Leeds to Inform Cultural Strategy. Supported by the Research England Policy Support Fund (2022-2023).
- Culture on the doorstep: Co-creating Place-based Learning to Build the Cultural Capital of Children and Young People. Supported by IVE/Arts Council England, ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, and the EES+ Fund, University of Leeds (2022-2023).
- Touching the Past: A Participatory Research Approach to Broadening Access to Heritage Data. Supported by Research England, Participatory Research Fund (2022-2023).
- Co-developing Gamification Methods for Infection Prevention Training Tools in Low Resource Healthcare Settings. Supported by Institutional Strategic Funds, University of Leeds (2022-2023).
- Arts and Health Engagement with Urban Slum Communities: Scoping a STEAM Education Initiative with Key Stakeholders in Bangladesh. Supported by Institutional Strategic Funds, University of Leeds (2022-2023).
- Creative Science with Schools: An Integrated Arts Approach to Enhancing the Science Curriculum. Supported by the Batley Multi Academy Trust; ESRC Impact Acceleration Account; University of Leeds, FBS Impact & Innovation Fund (2021-2023).
Other recent funded projects:
- Keepin’ it Real: Building Community Trust through Arts and Science Engagement. Supported by the Medical Research Council; Batley Multi Academy Trust; University of Leeds, School of Mechanical Engineering and School of Education; ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (2020-2021).
- d.LAB. A science-inspired digital dance collaboration with Kenneth Tindall. Supported by Northern Ballet, the Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute and the Cultural Institute, with funding from the UKRI Higher Education Innovation Fund (2020-2021). Read more about this collaboration in the Cultural Institute’s spotlight. Watch the short film and the extended version.
- Fab Lab La Campana: Design and Implementation of a FabLab in a Marginalised District in Monterrey, Mexico. Supported by the British Council (2019).
- BA (Hons) Textile Design
- MA Design (Design Theory)
- PhD Design Science
- Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts
- Member of the Design Society
I lead interdisciplinary arts and science educational activities with collaborations between Engineering, Biological Sciences, and Arts, focusing on learning in both formal and informal learning with children and young people from primary school through to higher education.
In the University, my undergraduate teaching focuses on the areas of creativity and professional practice. I supervise undergraduate and postgraduate design projects and dissertations in subject areas related to my research. I also act as a supervisor on the School of Mechanical Engineering’s internship programme, leading interdisciplinary projects with colleagues from environmental sciences, medical engineering, biological sciences, and education.
I have received several awards for my teaching, leadership, and academic service in the University. In 2012, I received a University Student Education Fellowship, in recognition of the impact of my work on different educational sectors. I received Faculty of Engineering Partnership awards in 2019 for my contributions to equality and inclusion, and in 2020, as a supervisor for guiding and inspired others to push the boundaries of their research. In 2021 and 2022, my arts and science projects received University awards for public engagement with research, for the categories ‘doing research in partnership’, and ‘widening perspectives’ in research impact.
Research groups and institutes
- Institute of Design, Robotics and Optimisation
- Design sciences