Ned Thomas' 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. Currently he serves as the Department Head of Materials Science and Engineering and as Founding Director, Strategic Planning for the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at MIT. In 2000, he and others from MIT co-founded OmniGuide Inc., a Cambridge, Massachusetts company that pioneered flexible carbon dioxide laser fibers for precision surgery.
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 395 papers and holds thirteen patents.