Dr Briony Thomas

Dr Briony Thomas


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 exhibit work both nationally and internationally. I have received funding from a range of sources including UK Research and Innovation, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the British Council, and other 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 in over 35 exhibitions that engage the public with research.

My mixed ethnic 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.

Beyond my university role I am Chair of Leeds33 – the city’s Local Cultural Education Partnership – where I lead the development of sustainable and strategic approaches to arts and cultural 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 of Leeds33, the Local Cultural Education Partnership (LCEP)
  • Co-Director of the UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems: Strategic Technical Platform (UKRAS STEPS)
  • Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Lead, School of Mechanical Engineering

Research interests

My research explores connections between the arts and sciences, the role of science and technology in society, and creative education. 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:

  • UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems: Strategic Technical Platform. Supported by the EPSRC (2024-2027). 
  • Imagineering: Creative and Participatory Approaches to Enhancing Research Culture in Mechanical Engineering. Supported by the Research England Enhancing Research Culture Fund (2023-2024).
  • Mapping Cultural Education: Access, Inclusion, and Progression in Leeds. Supported by the Research England Policy Support Fund (2023-2024).
  • Mechanics of Life: Movement, Mobility and Me. Supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious Awards programme, the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, and the EPSRC EP/R003971/1 (2023-2024).
  • 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 the EPSRC (2022-2027).

Other recent funded projects:

  • Co-creating a Research Culture Plan for Mechanical Engineering. Supported by the Research England Enhancing Research Culture Fund (2023). See the project’s poem captured in film.
  • Mapping Cultural Engagement with Schools in Leeds to Inform Cultural Strategy. Supported by the Research England Policy Support Fund (2022-2023). See the data site.
  • 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, the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, and the University of Leeds, FBS Impact & Innovation Fund (2021-2023).
  • Keepin’ it Real: Building Community Trust through Arts and Science Engagement. Supported by the Medical Research Council Public Engagement Seed Fund, the Batley Multi Academy Trust, the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, and the University of Leeds, School of Mechanical Engineering and School of Education (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).
<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>


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

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts
  • Member of the Design Society

Student education

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 the 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 education 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

  • Design history and material culture
  • Art practice as research

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>