Dame Jean Thomas

Jean Thomas

Dame Jean Thomas DBE FRS was Biological Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society until 2013. She is Master of St Catharine's College, Cambridge and Professor of Macromolecular Biochemistry. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1986 and became its Biological Secretary and Vice President in 2008.

Jean Thomas took both her BSc (First Class Honours, 1964) and PhD (1967) in Chemistry at the University of Wales (University College Swansea). She has been in Cambridge since 1967, first holding a Beit Memorial Fellowship for Medical Research at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (1976-69) and then as a member of the academic staff of the University - as a Lecturer, Reader, and now Professor of Macromolecular Biochemistry (since 1991). She was Chairman/Director of the Cambridge Centre for Molecular Recognition from 1993 to 2003. She was a Fellow of New Hall 1969-2006 (now Honorary Fellow), and sometime Vice-President. She became Master of St Catharine’s College on 1 January 2007 and Biological Secretary and Vice-president of the Royal Society in December 2008.

Her research interests are in 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. She also studies proteins that modulate chromatin structure, using biochemical and biophysical techniques including NMR spectroscopy to study the structures of these, and their complexes with DNA and other proteins. For her research work she was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science by the University of Cambridge (1985) and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (1986). In 1993 she became a CBE for services to science, and in 2005 a DBE for services to biochemistry.

Professor Thomas has served as a Trustee of the British Museum (1994-2004), as a Governor of the Wellcome Trust (2000-2007), as President of the Biochemical Society (2001-2005), and as President of Techniquest (Science Centre) (2005-2008). She has been a member of the Internal Merit Promotion Panel of the Research Councils since 2000 (Chair from 2006) and a member of Council of the Royal Society since 2007.

She was elected a Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (1982) and of the Academia Europaea (1991), and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (2002). She was awarded Honorary Fellowships of the University College of Wales, Swansea (1987), the University of Wales, Cardiff (1998), and Aberystwyth University (2009); and Honorary Doctorates of Science of the University of Wales (1992), the University of East Anglia (2002), and the University of London (2007). She was elected an Honorary Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge (2007), New Hall, Cambridge  (2007) and Worcestor College, Oxford (2008), an Honorary Member of both the Biochemical Society (2007) and the Biophysical Society (2009); and an Honorary Bencher of Middle Temple (2009).

She has previously served, inter alia, on the Science and Engineering Research Council (1990-94), the Council of the Royal Society (1990-92), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (1994-97), the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Lister Institute for Preventative Medicine (1994-2000), and the Council and Scientific Advisory Committee of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (1994-2000).


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