Issue date: 06 November 2001

Gillian Thomas is to be awarded the Honorary Degree of Master of Science in recognition her substantial contribution to the advancement of public understanding of science, and in particular, to the creation of At-Bristol.

Gillian Thomas started her career as a chemistry teacher but her interest in education lies beyond the traditional constraints of the school curriculum and throughout her life she has aimed to enhance and enrich the pleasure of learning about science in particular. Her early ventures include establishing a ‘drop in’ club for youngsters, and sorting out the logistical problems and administration of a kite making company.

Having moved to France, Gillian Thomas first taught Chemistry at a lycee, but in 1981 her knowledge and experience of an unusual combination of science, education, finance and design, led to her first involvement in a major visitor project: as science advisor and exhibit developer at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, at La Villette, Paris. In 1986, to coincide with the discovery of Halley’s Comet, la Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie was opened. During four years preparation for that opening Gillian Thomas had developed a keen understanding of dealing with government and its funding mechanisms.

From 1986 to 1989 Gillian Thomas was responsible for the management of the La Villette project’s interactive children’s galleries, the Cité des Enfants, and for the creation of a temporary exhibitions and events programme; workshop facilities for young people; and activities programmes for youth throughout the Cité.

In 1989 Gillian Thomas returned to Britain and was appointed as Director of the Eureka! Museum for Children project in Halifax. She was responsible for leading the project from its green field site beginnings to successful opening.

Gillian Thomas’s next project involved setting up a new division at the Science Museum London, and she was responsible for the interactive Basement Galleries and the Challenge of Materials Gallery.

From London Gillian Thomas moved to At-Bristol where, in 1996, she became Chief Executive and remained until October 2000.

Gillian Thomas was awarded an OBE for her services to the At-Bristol Project in January 2000. The University of the West of England is closely associated with At-Bristol’s educational endeavours which create an environment within the worlds of media, science and technology, which stimulates curiosity and stretches minds while at the same time offering enjoyment.

The Honorary Degree will be awarded at the awards ceremony of the Centre for Inter-Faculty Programmes on Thursday 8 November at 2.45pm at Bristol Cathedral.


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