Dr Briony Thomas

Dr Briony Thomas


I currently have a cross-Faculty role as a Lecturer in the School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Design. 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 Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences (2015–2018) to lead the establishment of cross-disciplinary initiatives in shape-based design and manufacture, which has led to my current cross-Faculty position (2019–present). I am a practising designer-maker, regularly exhibiting work internationally, and have received research funding from a range of sources including the British Council, EU, Department for Education (DfE) and charities.


  • Faculty Equality Coordinator

Research interests

My research is positioned at the nexus between art and science and centres on a STEAM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) approach that incorporates both theory and practice. My research through design explores the embedding of art and design approaches within the sciences, and my research into design investigates the incorporation of STEM within design practises, processes and analysis.

My current areas of interest are summarised below:

Design theory, processes and analysis – This research concentrates on visual and textual analysis within specific design/visual arts categories and cultural contexts. Recent projects have focused on the adaptation of cultural art forms in modern product design and the expressive properties of design elements in the visual communication strategies.

Design shape and form – My research in the area of design shape and form developed from an interest in the geometry of textile patterns, which has its roots in crystallographic theory. Projects have involved tiling theory, paper-folding and exploration of geometric form, in collaboration with colleagues in materials science, mathematics, virology and robotics. 

STEAM education – I have a particular interest in creativity and interdisciplinarity in education through a STEAM approach to learning and teaching. I have developed creative activities for the STEM classroom that are used internationally. I regularly deliver school workshops, public lectures and public engagement workshops, collaborating with colleagues in mathematics, biology and materials science to promote public engagement with science.

I welcome PhD applications in the areas outlined above. Please email me directly with any enquiries. 

Selected publicly funded STEAM research projects:

  • Design and implementation of a FabLab in a marginalised district in Monterrey, Mexico. A British Council HE Links project (2019).
  • SeeingNano. An EU Horizon 2020 project (2014-2016). 
  • The Art of Measure: Geometry in Virus Form and Function. YCCSA, University of York; Holbeck Charitable Trust; Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders, York (Wellcome Trust) (2014-2015).
  • Form, Shape and Space. Department for Education (Education Leeds and NCETM); Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society (2007-2010).


  • BA (Hons) Textile Design
  • MA Design (Design Theory)
  • PhD Design Science

Student education

I lead STEAM education initiatives (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) between the Faculties of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences and Arts, Humanities and Cultures. My undergraduate teaching focuses on the areas of design theory, creativity, product innovation and marketing, and professional practice. I supervise undergraduate and postgraduate design projects and dissertations in subject areas related to my research. 

I have led interdisciplinary undergraduate research projects, supervising on the YCCSA interdisciplinary summer school (University of York) and the School of Mechanical Engineering’s summer internships (Leeds) with colleagues from mathematics, chemistry and biological sciences. 

In 2012 I was awarded a University Student Education Fellowship in recognition of teaching excellence and the impact of my work on different sectors ranging from primary school education through to postgraduate research provision. In 2019 I was awarded the Faculty of Engineering Partnership award for my leadership and contributions in the area of Equality and Inclusion.

Research groups and institutes

  • Institute of Design, Robotics and Optimisation
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>