Ned Thomas’s research interests include polymer physics and engineering, photonics and phononics and mechanical and optical properties of block copolymers, liquid crystalline polymers, and hybrid organic-inorganic nanocomposites. Previously he served as 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 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 coming to MIT, he 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. Thomas is the 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 a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1986 and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2003 and Inaugural Fellow of the Materials Society in 2008. In 2009 he was elected to both the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He coauthored the undergraduate textbook The Structure of Materials and a research monograph, Periodic Materials: Photonics, Phononics and Mechanics, and has published over 450 papers and holds 20 patents.