Contact: Ronald Gilgenbach

Chair and Chihiro Kikuchi Collegiate Professor

Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences

(734) 763-1261

1911 Cooley

Alexander Thomas | Faculty

Alexander Thomas

Associate Professor, Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences

6108 ERB I
(734) 763-6008



As a child growing up in the small town of Southwold on the eastern seaboard of the United Kingdom, Professor Alec Thomas thought he had discovered his calling in life.

"When I was 10, my father got me a chemistry set," he recalls. "I liked trying to understand nature at its most fundamental level."

However, his interest in chemistry took an abrupt turn when he discovered physics in high school and found he enjoyed the challenges of the field. He switched his focus to study physics, a change he credits for the development of his interest in plasma physics and nuclear fusion energy.

"I don’t like things to be easy," he says. "That is what led me to this field."

Despite the rigorous nature of his studies, Professor Thomas still found time to pursue other interests. During college, he played drums in a rock band called Calamari. At one point, the band was allegedly voted the second-best student band in London, with first place going to Coldplay. Although he recalls his rock band days fondly, he has little sentimentality for the quality of their music.

"I guess I would say we were alternative music in that we were the alternative to music," he jokes.

"I don't like things to be easy. That is what led me to this field."
Alec Thomas

His bandmates went into the banking industry in London, while Professor Thomas pursued a PhD in Physics. He then joined U-M as an assistant professor in the Nuclear Energy and Radiological Sciences (NERS) department. Professor Thomas studies the physics and applications of intense laser interactions with plasma and works within the Michigan Institute for Plasma Science and Engineering and the Center for Ultra Optical Science.

One particular area his research confronts is the miniaturization of high-energy particle accelerators using lasers. Current facilities demand a large amount of space to shoot charged particles at high velocities and allow for improved X-rays, effective radiation therapy and groundbreaking physics research. However, the high cost of construction limits their accessibility and use.

"If every hospital and university could have access to just one of these facilities in their basements, then that would be very useful," he says.

Professor Thomas also serves as the Undergraduate Program Chair for NERS. He is available for students to discuss course options and potential career paths—or talk about life in general. He encourages students to join the NERS department if they seek challenging scientific problems, a great breadth of research applications and the individual attention of a smaller department.

"The level of care given by the department is traditionally very high," he notes. "It’s a small department, so you’re not just an anonymous face in the crowd. You’re part of the family."

Short Bio


Imperial College London
Diploma of Imperial College ’07
PhD Plasma Physics ’07
MSci (Honors) Physics (First Class) ’02


Associate Professor of Nuclear Engineering & Radiological Sciences
Department of Nuclear Engineering & Radiological Sciences
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 2014 – Present

Assistant Professor of Nuclear Engineering & Radiological Sciences
Department of Nuclear Engineering & Radiological Sciences
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 2008 – Present

Research Associate, Plasma Physics Group
Imperial College London, 2006 – 2008

Selected Honors and Awards

  • Young Investigator Program
    Air Force Office of Scientific Research, 2012
  • Faculty Early Career Development Program
    National Science Foundation, 2011
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship (declined) 
    NERSC of Canada, 2008
  • PhD Research Award
    European Physical Society, Plasma Physics Division, 2007
  • First Place for LIDAR Technologies, Imperial College Entrepreneurs’ Challenge 

Research & Teaching


  • Laser-Plasma Interactions: Ultra-high intensity laser-plasma interactions, compact laser-plasma based particle accelerators, particle-in-cell simulation, laser propagation in plasma at high intensity, inertial confinement fusion, Vlasov-Fokker-Planck modeling, non-local transport and magnetized plasmas.
  • Compact Radiation Sources: Laser-plasma radiation sources, radiation reaction force at high field strengths, radiation generation computational modeling.


  • ENGR 100-850 - An introduction to the Engineering Profession
  • ENGR 110 - The Engineering Profession
  • NERS 211 – An Introduction to Nuclear Engineering and Rad. Sciences
  • NERS 250 – Fundamentals of Nuclear Engineering and Rad. Sciences
  • NERS 471 – Introduction to Plasmas
  • NERS 590 – Special Topics, Computational Plasma Physics

Selected Publications

For a full list of Prof. Thomas's publications, please see his CV.

  • Z.-H. He, B. Hou, J. A. Nees, J. H. Easter, J. Faure, K. Krushelnick, and A. G. R.Thomas, High repetition-rate wakefield electron source generated by few-millijoule, 30 fs laser pulses on a density downramp, New J. Phys. 15 (2013).
  • F. Dollar, P. Cummings, V. Chvykov, L. Willingale, M. Vargas, V. Yanovsky, C. Zulick, A. Mak- simchuk, A. G. R.Thomas, and K. Krushelnick, Scaling High-Order Harmonic Generation from Laser-Solid Interactions to Ultrahigh Intensity, Phys. Rev. Lett. 110 (2013).
  • C. Zulick, F. Dollar, V. Chvykov, J. Davis, G. Kalinchenko, A. Maksimchuk, G. M. Petrov, A. Raymond, A. G. R. Thomas, L. Willingale, V. Yanovsky, and K. Krushelnick, Energetic neutron beams generated from femtosecond laser plasma interactions, Appl. Phys. Lett. 102 (2013).
  • J. H. Easter, J. A. Nees, B. X. Hou, A. Mordovanakis, G. Mourou, A. G. R. Thomas, and K. Krushelnick, Angular emission and polarization dependence of harmonics from laser- solid interactions, New J. Phys. 15 (2013).
  • B. Walton, A. E. Dangor, S. P. D. Mangles, Z. Najmudin, K. Krushelnick, A. G. R. Thomas, S. Fritzler, and V. Malka, Measurements of magnetic field generation at ionization fronts from laser wakefield acceleration experiments, New J. Phys. 15 (2013).
  • L. Willingale, A. G. R. Thomas, P. M. Nilson, H. Chen, J. Cobble, R. S. Craxton, A. Maksim- chuk, P. A. Norreys, T. C. Sangster, R. H. H. Scott, C. Stoeckl, C. Zulick, and K. Krushelnick, Surface waves and electron acceleration from high-power, kilojoule-class laser interactions with underdense plasma, New J. Phys. 15 (2013).
  • Z. H. He, A. G. R. Thomas, B. Beaurepaire, J. A. Nees, B. Hou, V. Malka, K. Krushelnick, and J. Faure, Electron diffraction using ultrafast electron bunches from a laser-wakefield accelerator at kHz repetition rate, Appl. Phys. Lett. 102 (2013).
  • A. G. R. Thomas, M. Sherlock, C. Kuranz, C. P. Ridgers, and R. P. Drake, Hybrid Vlasov- Fokker-Planck-Maxwell simulations of fast electron transport and the time dependance of K-shell excitation in a mid-Z metallic target, New J. Phys. 15 (2013).
  • W. Schumaker, N. Nakanii, C. McGuffey, C. Zulick, V. Chyvkov, F. Dollar, H. Habara, G. Kalintchenko, A. Maksimchuk, K. A. Tanaka, A. G. R. Thomas, V. Yanovsky, and K. Krushelnick, Ultrafast Electron Radiography of Magnetic Fields in High-Intensity Laser- Solid Interactions, Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 015003 (2013).
  • A. G. R. Thomas, C. P. Ridgers, S. S. Bulanov, B. J. Griffin, and S. P. D. Mangles, Strong Radiation-Damping Effects in a Gamma-Ray Source Generated by the Interaction of a High-Intensity Laser with a Wakefield-Accelerated Electron Beam, Phys. Rev. X 2, 041004 (2012).
  • S. W. Jolly, Z. He, C. McGuffey, W. Schumaker, K. Krushelnick, and A. G. R. Thomas, Stere- olithography based method of creating custom gas density profile targets for high intensity laser-plasma experiments, Review of Scientific Instruments 83, 073503 (2012).
  • C. McGuffey, T. Matsuoka, S. Kneip, W. Schumaker, F. Dollar, C. Zulick, V. Chvykov, G. Kalintchenko, V. Yanovsky, A. Maksimchuk, A. G. R. Thomas, K. Krushelnick, and Z. Najmudin, Experimental laser wakefield acceleration scalings exceeding 100 TW, Phys. Plasmas 19 (JUN 2012).
  • S. Kneip, Z. Najmudin, and A. G. R. Thomas, A plasma wiggler beamline for 100 TW to 10 PW lasers, High Energy Density Physics 8, 133 (JUN 2012).
  • F. Dollar, C. Zulick, A. G. R. Thomas, V. Chvykov, J. Davis, G. Kalinchenko, T. Matsuoka, C. McGuffey, G. M. Petrov, L. Willingale, V. Yanovsky, A. Maksimchuk, and K. Krushelnick, Finite Spot Effects on Radiation Pressure Acceleration from Intense High-Contrast Laser Interactions with Thin Targets, Phys. Rev. Lett. 108 (APR 25 2012).
  • B. Hou, J. H. Easter, J. A. Nees, Z. He, A. G. R. Thomas, and K. Krushelnick, Compres- sor optimization with compressor-based multiphoton intrapulse interference phase scan (MIIPS), Opt. Lett. 37, 1385 (APR 15 2012).
  • S. Kneip, C. McGuffey, J. L. Martins, M. S. Bloom, V. Chvykov, F. Dollar, R. Fonseca, S. Jolly, G. Kalintchenko, K. Krushelnick, A. Maksimchuk, S. P. D. Mangles, Z. Najmudin, C. A. J. Palmer, K. T. Phuoc, W. Schumaker, L. O. Silva, J. Vieira, V. Yanovsky, and A. G. R. Thomas, Characterization of transverse beam emittance of electrons from a laser-plasma wakefield accelerator in the bubble regime using betatron x-ray radiation, Phys. Rev. Spec. Top.-Accel. Beams 15 (2012).
  • A. G. R. Thomas, M. Tzoufras, A. P. L. Robinson, R. J. Kingham, C. P. Ridgers, M. Sherlock, and A. R. Bell, A review of Vlasov-Fokker-Planck numerical modeling of inertial confine- ment fusion plasma, J. Comput. Phys. 231, 1051 (2012).
  • S. P. D. Mangles, G. Genoud, M. S. Bloom, M. Burza, Z. Najmudin, A. Persson, K. Svensson, A. G. R. Thomas, and C. G. Wahlstrom, Self-injection threshold in self-guided laser wakefield accelerators, Phys. Rev. Spec. Top.-Accel. Beams 15 (2012).
  • L. Willingale, A. G. R. Thomas, P. M. Nilson, M. C. Kaluza, S. Bandyopadhyay, A. E. Dangor, R. G. Evans, P. Fernandes, M. G. Haines, C. Kamperidis, R. J. Kingham, S. Minardi, M. Notley, C. P. Ridgers, W. Rozmus, M. Sherlock, M. Tatarakis, M. S. Wei, Z. Najmudin, and K. Krushelnick, Proton probe measurement of fast advection of magnetic fields by hot electrons, Plasma Phys. Control. Fusion 53 (2011).
  • L. Willingale, P. M. Nilson, A. G. R. Thomas, J. Cobble, R. S. Craxton, A. Maksimchuk, P. A. Norreys, T. C. Sangster, R. H. H. Scott, C. Stoeckl, C. Zulick, and K. Krushelnick, Proton Probe Imaging of Fields Within a Laser-Generated Plasma Channel, IEEE Trans. Plasma Sci. 39, 2616 (2011).