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Wolfson Institute of Population Health

Dr Alison Thomson


Lecturer in Patient Public Involvement and Public Engagement in Science

Room Number: F107, Wolfson Institute
Twitter: @somehow_related


I am a designer and researcher based in the Preventive Neurology Unit (PNU), part of the Centre for Prevention, Detection and Diagnosis at the Wolfson Institute of Population Health. I joined the PNU in 2019, after working with the Bart’s MS research team in the Blizard Institute.

Currently I am a Lecturer in Patient Public Involvement (PPI) and Public Engagement in Science (PES), where I lead the award-winning module Engaging the Public with Science and supervise under-graduate and doctoral student projects. I also contribute to the PPI strategy of the PNU and the Institutes Public Advisory Panel.

My practice-based design background comes from studying Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art after which I went onto complete a PhD in design-led research at Goldsmiths, University of London. This specifically looked at the patient experience of people with Multiple Sclerosis.

I organise and run a number of different patient advisory groups both internally to QMUL and for external collaborators such as pharmaceutical companies, charities and other academic institutions.  I sit on a number of grant review panels relating to public engagement including the Wellcome Trust and the Centre for Public Engagement.

I present my academic research at a national and international level while also contribute to the practice-based design research community through establishing initiative’s such as PhD By Design.


Research Interests:

My practice-based research sits at the intersections of PPI, PES, Science and Technology Studies and Design Research. This work aims to articulate how design-led methods can study the notion of ‘patient experience’ within both healthcare and medical research settings, leading to the design of more inventive service interactions.

I create designs that investigate how patient experiences of people with MS might be improved through co-design, design-research and design-led interventions. Recent projects include the design of an approach to engage families to discuss living with MS, developing and testing an alternative rehabilitation activity to improve a person’s upper limb function, and creating an accessible upper limb outcome measure. These products, educational tools and resources all aim to improve the lives of people living with MS and are disseminated through national and international public engagement events, academic outputs and Neurology services.

I have developed and delivered different styles of engagement work to across multiple audiences, ranging from examples such as MS:The Big Knit and The Charcot Tapestry  to more traditional forms of engagement like patient research information days. Recent work looks at how we can support and engage different groups of people with long term conditions to take part in the design of this work, considering the many challenges and barriers to inclusion.



Heather Mah – Using social capital to understand PPI in MS (Horne Family Foundation)

Phazha Bothongo – Ethnic and Social Determinants of Dementia Risk

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