Edwin L. Thomas
Professor of Materials Science and NanoEngineering
Dr. Thomas and his students carry out research on photonics, phononics, interference lithography and mechanical behavior of microtrusses, polymer physics and engineering of the mechanical and optical properties of block copolymers, liquid crystalline polymers, and hybrid organic-inorganic nanocomposites. One area of special interest is photonics and the fabrication of polymeric photonic crystals using self-assembly, especially with block copolymers, and holographic interference lithography. For these studies, large emphasis is placed on the understanding of complex relations between the lattice symmetry and optical properties of periodic structures. Another area of particular focus is phononics. Just as periodic variation in refractive index opens gaps in photonic band structure of a medium, periodic variation in density and sound velocities may create band-gaps for mechanical waves. His group is exploring the way light and sound propagate in quasicrystalline photonic and phononic structures. This opens the possibility to control properties and propagation of light and sound in dual band gap structures. Other major topics in Dr. Thomas’ research are structured polymers. His structured materials research concentrates on enhancing our ability to fabricate complex structures with characteristic length in submicron and nanometer range in order to create materials with superior properties that can be tailored to a particular application. Understanding the influence of composition and processing conditions on the resultant microstructure of polymers and how this determines the properties is the central part of his polymer morphology research.
Edwin L. “Ned” Thomas is the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering. He holds joint appointments in the Departments of Materials Science and NanoEngineering and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and collaborates with scientists and engineers in the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice.
Thomas is a materials scientist and mechanical engineer and is passionate about promoting engineering leadership and student design competitions. His research is currently focused on using 2D and 3D lithography, direct-write and self-assembly techniques for creating metamaterials with unprecedented mechanical and thermal properties.
Thomas is the former head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a position he held from 2006 until his appointment at Rice in July 2011. He was named Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering in 1989 and is the founder and former director of the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology (2002-2006).
Before joining MIT, Thomas founded and served as co-director of the Institute for Interface Science and was head of the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering at the University of Massachusetts. He is a recipient of the 1991 High Polymer Physics Prize of the American Physical Society and the 1985 American Chemical Society Creative Polymer Chemist award. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009, Inaugural Fellow of the Materials Society in 2008, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2003 and Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1986. He wrote the undergraduate textbook, The Structure of Materials, and has coauthored more than 420 papers and holds 16 patents.
Thomas received a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Massachusetts and his Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from Cornell University.
Find out more about the Thomas Research Group.