Thomas named dean of Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics

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Edward “Ed” Thomas Jr., interim dean and professor of physics, has been appointed dean of Auburn University’s College of Sciences and Mathematics, or COSAM, effective March 1. Thomas assumes the role following a national search and is the first COSAM dean appointed to hold a doctorate from Auburn.

As interim dean since 2021, Thomas led the college through a critical time of transition where he focused on advancing mission-driven activities and strengthening engagement opportunities for students and faculty through increased resources and improved facilities. Working with more than 2,800 students, faculty and staff, Thomas developed essential programs and initiatives to strengthen the college’s culture of excellence, including increasing opportunities to support and recognize the contributions of COSAM’s stakeholders.

"The past two years have marked an important transitional period for Auburn and the College of Sciences and Mathematics,” President Christopher B. Roberts said. “As interim dean, Dr. Thomas brought a wealth of academic and administrative experience to the role, allowing him to lead the college while visualizing its strategic path forward. I look forward to supporting him as he works toward his long-term vision for COSAM.”

As dean, Thomas will continue leading the college’s efforts to cultivate future leaders by establishing new professional mentorship and internship programs. He will also remain focused on advancing disciplinary and interdisciplinary research opportunities, developing externally funded, COSAM-based research centers and improving teaching and research facilities, such as the STEM+Ag building complex that is scheduled to open in 2025.

With a vision to elevate and recognize COSAM as an essential contributor to Auburn’s land-grant mission, Thomas’s efforts as dean will include developing unified, cross-unit strategies that effectively integrate the college’s comprehensive portfolio of activities to attract the next generation of COSAM students. Recognizing COSAM’s contributions to undergraduate education at Auburn, Thomas will work to advance innovations in interactive learning and student classroom engagement while also fostering the college’s efforts to become a more equitable and inclusive college.

“I am deeply humbled to take on this new role to serve COSAM.  The past year and a half as interim dean has been an invaluable learning experience that has allowed me to work with our college’s leadership team in new and different ways,” said Thomas. “The opportunity to learn from our faculty, students and staff has enabled me to identify new approaches to optimize our work and foster important relationships with our stakeholders. As the first COSAM dean to hold a doctoral degree from Auburn, it’s an honor to serve my alma mater in this capacity.”

Thomas joined Auburn in 2000 as an assistant professor and, following his promotion to full professor in 2007, served as the associate dean for research and graduate studies in 2017. In this role, Thomas led several initiatives designed to strengthen the college’s culture of discovery and innovation while continuing to serve as director of the Magnetized Plasma Research Laboratory. Thomas generated over $17 million in external funding and is the author of over 80 peer-reviewed journal publications and more than 350 conference presentations, invited talks and colloquia.

During his tenure as a faculty member, Thomas has mentored nearly 40 undergraduate researchers and served as a major professor to 30 post-doctoral research scholars and graduate students, many of whom have assumed faculty and research staff positions at prominent institutions. In addition, he has held both the prestigious Charles Barkley and Lawrence C. Wit professorships. 

Thomas has served on several U.S. and international advisory committees, including the Department of Energy’s Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee and the National Academies’ Plasma Science Committee. In addition, Thomas was named to the National Science Foundation Advisory Committee for Mathematical and Physical Sciences in 2021 and to the National Academies of Sciences Board on Physics and Astronomy in 2022.

Thomas holds a bachelor’s degree from Florida Institute of Technology, a master’s degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate from Auburn University. He and his wife have two adult children, one of whom is also an Auburn alumnus.

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