Design historian Professor Catherine McDermott is one of design’s most prominent academics. As Professor of Design at Kingston University in Surrey she has forged links with UK organisations such as the Design Museum and the Museum of London, and is now working with Kingston students to support design in Africa.

McDermott’s forte is contemporary curating – in 2001 she established an MA programme entitled Curating Contemporary Design with the then Design Museum director Paul Thompson (now rector of the Royal College of Art) which is taught in association with the museum. She has worked with the Museum of London on research into cultural diversity and on contemporary interiors with London’s Geffrye Museum.

Last year McDermott was an instigator of the Dream Lab challenge, run by Kingston University and the British Council with the Science Museum, the Design Museum, the Wellcome Trust and Bournemouth University. Chinese students were invited to communicate the science of sleep through their creative skills to give them a taste for UK creative briefs. Plans are to extend the exercise across Asia.

McDermott is currently working with South African Aids charity Wola Nani, which produces papier maché bowls, on a project that comes to fruition in the autumn.

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