AMHERST, Mass. - Edwin L. "Ned" Thomas, a University of Massachusetts Amherst alumnus and former chairman of the department of polymer science and engineering, will give the 12th annual Tang Lecture on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 4 p.m. in the Cape Cod Lounge in the Student Union. A reception follows at 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. His talk is titled, "The Role of Design-Build Competitions in Enhancing Leadership Skills in Engineering Students."
Thomas is a Massachusetts native and earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from UMass Amherst in 1969. He is the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering in the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice University. In addition to his role as dean at Rice, Thomas is a professor in both the department of mechanical engineering and materials science and the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering.
Before going to Rice in July 2011, Thomas was the chair of the country’s top-ranked department of materials science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Thomas spent 22 years at MIT where he was the Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering beginning in 1989.
In 2002 he founded MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN), which serves the military by developing lightweight gear that can help reduce the 100-pound loads in backpacks. It also has created a device that can remotely "sniff" for explosives, reducing the risk to soldiers. The institute has received more than $11 million in annual funding and involves some 60 faculty members from 12 departments.
Thomas is also the author of the textbook "The Structure of Materials." He has 14 patents, three of which are licensed to a company he co-founded - OmniGuide - that specializes in revolutionary minimally invasive CO2 surgery. A "perfect mirror" discovered by Thomas and one of his students is employed in flexible, hollow-core photonic fibers for laser surgical applications in endoscopic procedures.
Prior to joining the faculty at MIT, Thomas served on the faculty at the University of Minnesota and at UMass Amherst. In 2009 he was elected to both the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The Shirley and Ting-wei Tang Endowment Lecture Series brings leaders of engineering-based companies and academic institutions to campus so they can interact with students and faculty and present a major talk. Shirley Tang is a retired academic advisor for the United Asia Learning Resource Center. Emeritus Professor Ting-wei Tang had a distinguished 38-year career at UMass Amherst. An internationally recognized expert in numerical modeling of semiconductor devices, he was elected an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Fellow in 1999. He received the 2009 Distinguished Faculty Award from UMass Amherst.