Professor Dame Jean Thomas

17 July 2009

Professor Dame Jean Thomas DBE, CBE, ScD, FRS, FmedSci (left).
Professor Dame Jean Thomas DBE, CBE, ScD, FRS, FmedSci (left).
Professor Wayne Powell, Director of IBERS presents Professor Dame Jean Thomas as an Honorary Fellow of Aberystwyth University.

Professor Powell's presentation.

Professor Dame Jean Thomas DBE, CBE, ScD, FRS, FmedSci is the first female Master of St Catherine's College, Cambridge, a Fellow of New Hall, Cambridge and Professor of Macromolecular Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge, where she leads a team studying the structure and dynamics of chromatin (the complex of proteins and DNA that constitutes chromosomes) and its role in the repression and activation of genes.

Professor Dame Jean Thomas was born in Treboeth, Swansea and gained both a First Class BSc in Chemistry (1964) and a PhD in Chemistry (1967) from the University of Wales (University College Swansea).  She has been in Cambridge, initially at Darwin College, since 1967, first holding a Beit Memorial Fellowship for Medical Research at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (1967-9) and then as a member of the University's academic staff and a Fellow of New Hall since 1969 where, from 1983-7, she served as its Vice-President.  She received the degree of Doctor of Science from the University of Cambridge in 1985.  She has been Professor of Macromolecular Biochemistry since 1991 and was Chairman/Director of the Cambridge Centre for Molecular Recognition from 1993-2003. 

Professor Thomas has received numerous awards and honours in recognition of her academic achievements, including a DBE in the 2005 New Year’s Honours List to accompany the CBE awarded to her in 1993.  She was elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation in 1982, became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1986 becoming its Biological Secretary and Vice President in 2008, a member of the Academia Europaea in 1991 and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2002.  Professor Thomas became an Honorary Fellow of University of Wales Swansea in 1987 and of Cardiff University in 1998.  She holds honorary doctorates in science from the University of Wales (1992) and the University of East Anglia (2002).  She was President of the Biochemical Society (of the UK) from 2000-2005, and made an Honorary Member of that august body in 2008.

Professor Thomas has made an invaluable contribution to the work of external organisations.  She served for 10 years, from 1994, as a Trustee of the British Museum.  She has served on the Science and Engineering Research Council, the Council of The Royal Society, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Lister Institute for Preventive Medicine and the Council and Scientific Advisory Committee of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund.  She is currently a Governor of the Wellcome Trust and currently chairs the Internal Merit Promotion Panel of the Research Councils.

As a fellow graduate of the University of Wales and someone who has recently returned home from Cambridge, it is a privilege to be able to note the part played by Wales in the early development of Professor Thomas’ distinguished career as a scientist.

Mr President, I am pleased to present Professor Dame Jean Thomas to be ordained as an Honorary Fellow of Aberystwyth University.

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