Dr Briony Thomas

Dr Briony Thomas

Profile

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 — at the intersection of art, science and technology, and society.

Over the past 15+ years, I have developed a transdisciplinary approach to research and education, leading collaborative and creativity-driven initiatives with schools and communities. Many of these projects have focused on arts-led approaches to science and mathematics education. I am passionate about creativity, diversity and inclusion, and the transformative power of education. Alongside my university role, I am Chair of Leeds Cultural Education Partnership (LeedsCEP), where I champion creative and cultural opportunities for all children and young people in the city.

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, regularly exhibiting work internationally, and have received research funding from a range of sources including the Medical Research Council, EU, British Council, and charitable foundations.

Responsibilities

  • Chair, Leeds Cultural Education Partnership (LeedsCEP)
  • Deputy Director, Institute of Design, Robotics and Optimisation (iDRO)

Research interests

My research is positioned at the intersection of art, science, and society. I take a transdisciplinary approach, collaborating with different disciplines, practitioners, and communities.

My primary areas of research are summarised below:

Design geometry (shape and form, from 2D to 3D) – My research in design shape and form developed from my studies 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 mathematics, virology and robotics.

Cultural artefacts and product innovation – This research developed from a geometrical approach to analysing cultural patterns and uses visual methods to explore design within cultural contexts. Recent projects have focused on the adaptation of cultural art, such as Chinese papercutting, in modern product design, and the expressive properties of design elements in the visual communication strategies.

STEAM education – This research takes a transdisciplinary approach to learning through collaborative and creativity-driven initiatives with schools and communities. Recent projects have focused on co-creating learning resources with communities and designing digital and physical models for hands-on science education. I regularly deliver school and community workshops in collaboration with colleagues in mathematics, biology, and materials science.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Qualifications

  • 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.

Current postgraduate researchers

<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>